Description of Procedure: Until recently, pregnancy success rates from egg freezing procedures were very poor. Scientific advances have now made egg freezing a viable option for women. Eggs can now be successfully frozen, stored and thawed for use at a later date. However, not all eggs freeze and thaw well. There can be wide variations in the percentage of eggs that survive the freeze and thaw process. It is possible that no eggs will survive the freeze and thaw process. Eggs are kept in liquid nitrogen tanks until thawing is performed. Eggs can theoretically be stored for years and still be viable after thawing. Thawed eggs require sperm injection for fertilization (ICSI-intracytoplasmic sperm injection). Even with viable eggs after thawing, pregnancy still may not occur. In order to obtain eggs to freeze, you are given a series of injections with fertility medications. Eggs are then retrieved via sonographically guided transvaginal needle aspiration under general anesthesia.
Benefits of Procedure: Egg freezing provides you with options for various circumstances. Some women store eggs prior to undergoing cancer treatment since chemotherapy may damage eggs. Other women may store eggs if they are single and want to preserve their younger more fertile eggs for use at a later time. Female fertility declines with advancing age. About 2/3 of women at age 35 are fertile, but by age 40 only 1/3 can become pregnant with their own eggs. Freezing young eggs in essence stops the biological clock from ticking. For example, if you freeze your eggs at age 30 but do not use them until age 40, then your chances for conceiving will be that of a 30 year old. Your chances for miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome will be that of a 30 year old woman as well. Finally, some women may prefer to store extra eggs not used from an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle instead of freezing extra embryos (fertilized eggs). Freezing and storing eggs instead of embryos may reduce some moral and ethical concerns. Less controversy surrounds the destruction of unused frozen eggs versus unused frozen embryos.
Risks of Procedure: Eggs may not survive freezing and thawing. Thawed eggs may not be adequate for establishing a pregnancy. Failures may occur with the freezing and storage equipment that would render the eggs non-viable. While current data indicates that there is no increase in birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities in children born from frozen eggs, it is possible that such a problem may occur.
What happens to the frozen eggs? There are potential options for your frozen eggs. Please consider these options carefully.
- Eggs may be thawed when ready to use in an attempt to achieve a pregnancy.
- Eggs can be destroyed upon request.
- Eggs can be destroyed upon your death.
- Eggs can be saved after your death for your spouse to use to achieve a pregnancy with a surrogate uterus.
- Eggs may be donated to others.