What’s Egg Freezing And Should You Do It?
In this modern day and age, more and more women are postponing having children for other more immediate personal goals and It’s okay if you would like to have children later on in life. But maybe your biggest concern is if you will still be as fertile in the future as you are right now.
Well… That’s where egg freezing comes in! Thanks to egg freezing women can now delay getting pregnant until a later time. You’ll be surprised to learn just how many women nowadays choose to have children much later. While society and patterns in childbirth may be changing, the biological realities of fertility remain the same. In this article, we’ll explore what to expect, the procedure and the risks of egg freezing.
What is ‘egg freezing’?
Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, is a method where eggs harvested from the ovaries are frozen unfertilised and stored for later use. Then later a frozen egg can be thawed, combined with sperm in a lab and implanted in the uterus (in vitro fertilisation or IVF).
It’s okay if it still sounds a bit unclear to you. Your doctor can help you understand how egg freezing works, the potential risks and whether this method of fertility preservation is right for you based on your needs and reproductive history.
Why is it done?
If you are not planning to conceive any time soon but fear you might want to, later on, egg freezing might the best available option. The best part is egg freezing doesn't require sperm because the eggs aren't fertilised before they're frozen. The same thing with embryo freezing, however, you'll need to use fertility drugs to make you ovulate so that you'll produce multiple eggs for retrieval.
You are likely to consider egg freezing if:
Career and educational plans: Women who wish to pursue advanced degrees or demanding careers may freeze their eggs when they are young to ensure access to healthy eggs later on.
You have a condition or circumstance that can affect your fertility: These might include sickle cell anaemia, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, and gender diversity, such as being transgender.
Cancer: Certain medical treatments — such as radiation or chemotherapy — can harm your fertility. Egg freezing before treatment might enable you to have biological children later.
You're undergoing in vitro fertilisation: When undergoing in vitro fertilisation, some people prefer egg freezing to embryo freezing for religious or ethical reasons.
Personal circumstances: Women who want to have a child with a partner but have not yet found one may freeze their eggs for future use.
What should I expect?
If this happens to be something you have been thinking about you can expect the following stages:
Before the egg-freezing process begins, a doctor will take a comprehensive medical history with a focus on fertility, assess the regularity of the menstrual cycle, and perform a range of blood tests to assess hormone levels. In order to maximize the number of available eggs, a woman will undergo hormone treatment to stimulate the production of more eggs. This treatment normally requires a woman to inject herself with hormones at home between one and three times a day. Additionally, most women will be asked to take birth control pills for at least a month before receiving the hormone injections. This suppresses the natural cycle and increases the effectiveness of the hormones.
With the help of an ultrasound to guide the procedure, the doctor inserts a needle into the ovarian follicles to retrieve the eggs after they ripen. However, if the eggs are not visible during an ultrasound, the doctor may perform abdominal surgery to remove them. Here, the doctor makes a small incision in the abdomen and inserts a needle to extract the egg. Don’t worry, it will be under sedation and pain medication. After retrieval, freezing will need to take place as soon as possible. But since the eggs are full of water, the doctor will inject a special solution into the eggs before freezing them.
In the future, when you’re ready to use your eggs, you will undergo in vitro fertilisation (IVF). With IVF, a fertility specialist fertilizes the egg in a lab, using sperm from either your partner or a donor.
After the procedure
Typically, you can resume normal activities within a week of egg retrieval. Avoid unprotected sex to prevent unintended pregnancy.
Contact your health care provider if you have:
A fever higher than (38.6 C)
Severe abdominal pain
Weight gain of more than 0.9 kilograms in 24 hours
Heavy vaginal bleeding — filling more than two pads an hour
Are there any factors to consider?
There are things to keep in mind associated with egg freezing. Namely:
There can be side effects - Everyone’s body is different but after egg retrieval, some women may experience cramping, bloating, and spotting. Other unwanted side effects include weight gain, bloating, mood swings, and headaches.
It's expensive - Freezing eggs can be expensive, and most insurance plans do not cover the procedure. The cost of an egg freezing cycle is between $15,000 to $20,000, and don't forget to take into account the cost of egg storage, which can run you up to $1,200 a year.
It is not an insurance policy - While it might be consoling to know that you have had your eggs frozen, it is no guarantee for successful pregnancies. This is because not all the eggs you freeze are going to be viable. Think quality as well as quantity.
There’s no best age to freeze your eggs - An optimal time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s and early 30s when you have a higher ovarian reserve (the number of eggs in your ovaries) and healthier eggs.
Being informed helps - It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed when making decisions about your fertility, not to mention about your healthcare in general. Through the Grace Health app, you can be connected to a facility near you that will not only tell you more about the process but guide you on whether or not it is the best option for you and evaluate alternative options.
Egg freezing is a modern science miracle. Especially for those who are not sure or not ready to have children of their own. With help and guidance from your doctor, you can get a better understanding of the procedure and determine if it’s the most suitable option to take.
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