Fertility preservation technology increases a woman’s potential to have children later in life.
Fertility preservation is an option for women interested in postponement of pregnancy for personal reasons (career, waiting for Mr. Right, or just not ready) and for any woman who feels that her future fertility may be in danger due to medical procedures, such as chemotherapy or surgery.
Fertility preservation uses advanced cryopreservation (freezing) techniques to freeze a woman’s oocytes (unfertilized eggs) to store for future use. During an egg-freezing cycle, a patient will go through many of the same steps that are involved in a typical IVF cycle: ovulation stimulation, ultrasound monitoring, and egg retrieval. After egg retrieval, the eggs will be cultured for a few hours and then frozen the same day for future use.
Oocyte (Egg) Freezing for Elective Indications
Fertility preservation through oocyte (egg) freezing allows women to store eggs at a younger age for use when they are older and is now an important part of modern day culture. Unfortunately, the female biological clock is far less forgiving than a male’s clock. A woman’s fertility peaks in her 20s and by her late 30s her eggs are deteriorating, making it more difficult to get pregnant and increasing the risk of genetic defects. By age 40, her odds of conceiving naturally are only about 5 percent per month.
For a generation of women who often put off marriage and motherhood to focus on careers, that reality is hard to take. So there is excitement about the new technology of egg freezing, which may someday put the biological clock on hold. In theory, egg freezing lets a women avoid the mad scramble for a mate. It’s an option for women who want to delay pregnancy for personal reasons.
Egg freezing, or “oocyte cryopreservation,” entails taking drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs, then having eggs extracted surgically, frozen and stored for in vitro fertilization. Oocyte quality is best when a woman is in her reproductive prime (age 16 to 28). Many eggs are usually still of good quality in the mid-reproductive years (age 29 to 38) and may remain usable (but with diminished chance for producing pregnancy) in the late-reproductive period (age 39 to 44). If necessary or desired, it is best to have eggs that are frozen when they are of the best quality possible.
To date, there are over 1500 births worldwide (greater than 600 reported in the last four years) as a result of egg freezing. Our fertility center has a staff dedicated to the egg freezing program to assure patients are properly cared for, counseled and supported. We know this is a big decision for many women and we want to make the process as comfortable and easy as possible.