I’m 32 and after a failed relationship started to worry that I wouldn’t meet Mr. Right any time soon. My mother suggested freezing my eggs, which is not something I’ve thought of before. Am I a bit young to freeze my eggs and are there tests I can do to work out how much time I have to make this decision?
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, is a procedure intended to preserve a woman’s fertility, even after an age at which she is traditionally deemed to have entered the realm of at-risk or potentially problematic pregnancies. It is a complex process, and as such many women have questions about it before choosing whether or not egg freezing is right for their needs, as demonstrated by one patient’s concerns regarding egg freezing,
In short, there is no such thing as being “too young” to freeze one’s eggs. The younger a woman is, the better quality her eggs will be when she undergoes oocyte cryopreservation. There are multiple tests that doctors will perform if the woman is considering undergoing cryopreservation. These tests will ensure that the woman is producing quality eggs, which will in turn help to ensure her future success should she choose to use the eggs harvested at this early date for IVF treatment.
How does egg freezing work?
Egg freezing works by using the same principals of egg harvesting as used during IVF treatment. The patient takes part in a hormone-injection process that allows the doctor to collect the eggs. Once they are collected they are cryogenically frozen, allowing them to remain fertile and healthy even as the mother grows older. The entire process takes about 4 to 6 weeks, although it can be sped along in the case of an emergency situation, such as if a patient is about to undergo chemotherapy and is looking to preserve her eggs prior to treatment.
Are the drugs you use safe?
All of the medications used in oocyte cryopreservation are hormones, which are used to stimulate egg production. The hormones associated with egg collection do come with some mild side effects, including but not limited to hot flashes, headache, and nausea. The patient will also be monitored through the duration of her treatment with the hormones to ensure that the ovaries are not over-stimulated in the process, a condition that is referred to as ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, or OHSS. It is important to note that all side effects, as well as OHSS, only last for the duration of the time in which the woman is undergoing the hormone treatment.
What’s the success rate and how do I work out if it’s worth me going through the procedure by assessing how successful it would be?
There is only a minimal reduction in the number of successful IVF treatments with frozen eggs as compared to unfrozen eggs. Additionally, birth defects and chromosomal defects are reported to be equal to those seen in natural births.
When it comes to determining if it is worth going through the procedure, each woman must consider her own individual needs and desires. Those women who are fairly certain they do not want children may find that protecting their potential to reproduce is unnecessary. Women who want to have children but who are having difficulty finding a partner, or who are focused on their careers, may find the cost negligible when compared to the potential to have children. Each woman should assess her own needs in determining whether oocyte cryopreservation is right for her.
Dr. Tanmoy Mukherjee, a board certified gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist, is Associate Director of the Mount Sinai Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and co-director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York.