Is freezing eggs the answer to age-related fertility decline?

Is freezing eggs the answer to age-related fertility decline?

 

 

The method of freezing eggs has really improved over the last 15 years.

 

By freezing eggs when she is in her 20s or 30s, a woman can, in theory, extend her fertility.

 

So, is egg freezing the answer to reduce the effects of age-related fertility decline?

 

How we freeze eggs

Freezing cells and tissues involves preservation for extended periods of time at sub-zero temperatures.

 

There are several methods of freezing cells and tissues.

 

All use cryoprotective additives, special chemicals that reduce damage by preventing ice formation and cooling until sub-zero temperatures are reached.

 

Usually frozen cells and tissues are stored in liquid nitrogen which has a temperature of -196°C.

 

 

What happens to a woman when she goes through egg freezing?

If a woman has decided to opt for egg freezing, or is thinking about having her eggs frozen; she needs to visit a fertility clinic.

The process she will go through is almost identical to the first half of an IVF cycle, but without the fertilisation part, so no embryos are made.

 

One cycle of egg freezing takes about 2-4 weeks. A woman will be given fertility drugs so multiple eggs grow and can be collected.

 

All women respond very individually to fertility drugs.

 

It is routine for IVF clinics to check a woman’s ovarian reserve to determine the dose of fertility drugs that they will give; to reduce the risk of hyperstimulation, and to optimise the number of eggs collected.

 

When the fertility drugs are given; the woman will be monitored by ultrasound and maybe some blood tests to check how the eggs are developing.

ALSO READ: Foods that affect fertility

When she is ready, the IVF clinic will collect the eggs, using a minor surgical procedure which should take about 30 mins.

 

This is identical to the IVF egg collection. Briefly, she will be given light sedation, and a vaginal ultrasound probe will be used to visualise the ovaries.

 

A needle will be pushed through the vaginal wall towards the ovary where it will be used to aspirate the follicles and hopefully collect one egg from each follicle.

 

All the collected eggs will be taken to the embryology laboratory and those that are at the right stage will be frozen.

 

The operation is usually a day case.

 

 

What happens to a woman when she goes through egg freezing?

If a woman has decided to opt for egg freezing, or is thinking about having her eggs frozen; she needs to visit a fertility clinic.

 

The process she will go through is almost identical to the first half of an IVF cycle, but without the fertilisation part, so no embryos are made.

 

One cycle of egg freezing takes about 2-4 weeks.

 

A woman will be given fertility drugs so multiple eggs grow and can be collected.

 

All women respond very individually to fertility drugs.

 

It is routine for IVF clinics to check a woman’s ovarian reserve to determine the dose of fertility drugs that they will give; to reduce the risk of hyperstimulation, and to optimise the number of eggs collected.

 

When the fertility drugs are given; the woman will be monitored by ultrasound and maybe some blood tests to check how the eggs are developing.

 

When she is ready; the IVF clinic will collect the eggs, using a minor surgical procedure which should take about 30 mins. This is identical to the IVF egg collection.

 

Briefly, she will be given light sedation, and a vaginal ultrasound probe will be used to visualise the ovaries.

 

A needle will be pushed through the vaginal wall towards the ovary where it will be used to aspirate the follicles and hopefully collect one egg from each follicle.

 

All the collected eggs will be taken to the embryology laboratory and those that are at the right stage will be frozen.

 

The operation is usually a day case.

 

How many eggs to bank and the success of egg freezing

There is no easy answer to the questions of how many eggs to bank, and what the success rates are.

 

Success will depend on the age of the woman when she froze her eggs, and how many she has frozen.

 

To gain accurate data, we would need hundreds of women across all ages to use their frozen eggs. But few women who have frozen their eggs have come back to use them, so at the moment we do not have reliable data. And it is not just about the number of eggs banked; the quality is important as well.

 

As a woman gets older, more eggs will have abnormalities.

 

A younger woman who has 20 eggs banked will most likely have more viable eggs than a women who is aged 40 with 20 eggs banked.

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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