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When it comes to fertility preservation, woman have choices — whether to delay childbearing to pursue personal or career goals or to begin an important medical treatment.

One of those options is oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing. A relatively new process among approved fertility treatments, this procedure involves extracting your eggs to freeze and store them for future childbearing. Here’s how it works.

The Egg Freezing Cycle and Retrieval Process

The egg retrieval and freezing cycle cooperates with your body’s natural processes. Multiple cycles may be recommended for the best chance of a future live birth. Here’s what to expect during a typical egg freezing cycle.

First, you’ll undergo ovarian reserve testing to spot any potential issues. If all checks out, hormones are provided to stimulate ovulation.

Next comes the egg retrieval procedure. This is the same process that in vitro fertilization patients or egg donors undergo. The procedure itself takes less than an hour, and you’ll be able to go home the same day. At the time of your appointment, your fertility team will administer sedatives to ensure you’re comfortable throughout the procedure.

Your doctor will use transvaginal ultrasound and a small needle to locate and access your ovaries and follicles. The doctor uses that same needle to draw out the eggs. An embryologist will examine the eggs immediately for volume and viability. Your unfertilized eggs are then frozen and safely stored.

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After the Egg Retrieval Procedure

Following the procedure, the doctor and embryologist will tell you how many eggs were retrieved, and how your body may respond as it recovers. You’re more likely to experience minor side effects from the anesthesia than from the procedure itself.

Is There an Age Limit for Freezing Your Eggs?

The quality of your eggs diminishes as you age. Beginning in your 30s, they deteriorate faster. However, if you freeze and preserve your eggs early on, they’ll stay as high quality as they were when you underwent the procedure. That’s why many women choose to freeze their eggs in their 20s or early 30s, and decide years later when to have a family. Essentially, they’re preserving the freedom to try to conceive later.

Expected Outcomes

Your approach to family planning is personal. Your frozen eggs will be safely and securely cryopreserved until you decide to use them. When you want to conceive, your frozen eggs will be thawed and fertilized using sperm from your partner or a sperm donor.

To learn about your options, call the Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital at 412-641-1000, option 1. To make an appointment or to talk with one of our fertility preservation experts, call 412-641-7475.

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About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.