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Freezing Your Eggs: Essential Facts About Oocyte Cryopreservation

Are you concerned about your ability to have children down the road? You might want to consider egg freezing. Oocyte cryopreservation, or freezing your eggs, allows you to preserve your fertility and plan for the future.

To find out if freezing your eggs is right for you, talk to your doctor or contact UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.


 

Why Consider Egg Freezing?

Each woman is born with a set number of eggs that will gradually decrease in quantity until she reaches menopause. As she ages, the quality of her eggs also decreases.

For women considering egg freezing who may not be ready to try getting pregnant now, keep in mind that fertility (your ability to conceive children) generally starts to decline after age 30, and drops further between the ages of 35 and 40.

By age 40, a woman has about a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant during each menstrual cycle, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). And ACOG also says it’s rare for a woman to get pregnant after age 45 without medical help.

Women who do get pregnant when they’re older have a higher risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications. And their babies face a greater risk of chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.

There are many reasons to consider oocyte cryopreservation. Egg freezing is an option for women facing chemotherapy and radiation treatments or other conditions that can damage fertility. Genetics, surgery, injury, and gender-affirming treatments may also be factors in your fertility decisions.

What Is Egg Freezing?

So, what is egg freezing and how does it work? To begin, you receive hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries and produce multiple eggs. When your body is ready, you’ll be put under IV sedation (so you’re asleep during the procedure and won’t feel any pain) and a doctor known as a reproductive endocrinologist retrieves your eggs with a needle and catheter, removing them with light suction.

Afterward, you may want to take a day or two to rest, as it’s possible to feel some discomfort and mild cramping, along with spotting. In addition, you may experience bloating and temporarily gain a few pounds of fluid weight. Your period will likely start about two weeks later, and then return to a normal cycle the next month.

After the procedure, your eggs will be prepared for freezing. Only mature, usable eggs can be frozen. The eggs will be stored at an egg or embryo bank. When you’re ready to use your eggs to try to get pregnant, you’ll need to provide sperm from a partner or donor. The egg and sperm will be fertilized in the lab.

After you undergo a few weeks of hormone injections to prepare your body, one or more fertilized embryos will be transferred to your uterus. Your doctor will help you decide how many embryos to transfer. In most cases, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends transferring only one embryo at a time. This reduces the chance of multiple births, which pose increased risk for both mothers and babies.

Is Egg Freezing Safe?

In 2012, the ASRM issued new guidelines stating that egg freezing was no longer experimental — a move that increased the use of the procedure.

Freezing your eggs is considered safe for both you and your future baby. Unlike other fertility procedures — freezing embryos (a fertilized egg and sperm), for example — women don’t need a male partner or a sperm donation to freeze their eggs. If possible, it’s better to freeze your eggs when you’re in your 20s or early 30s since the younger you are, the better quality your eggs will be. Your chances of pregnancy are based on the age you were when you froze your eggs, not the age you are when you try to become pregnant.

Science has come a long way in the past century. By planning ahead, you can prepare for a future pregnancy now. To find out if freezing your eggs is right for you, talk to your doctor or contact UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

 


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