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Friday, June 03, 2016

Egg Freezing: The Fertility Process That Gives You Options

Did you know your age significantly impacts your fertility? As you get older, the quantity and quality of your eggs begins to decline, reducing your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. You’re most fertile in your twenties, followed by your early thirties, but what if you’re not ready to start a family within this time frame?

Thanks to advanced egg freezing technology, you can now preserve your fertility at its peak. This opportunity extends your childbearing years, giving you more options for the future. If you’re considering egg freezing, take some time and learn what you can do to be successful.

HOW DOES EGG FREEZING WORK?


Freezing your own eggs for future pregnancy involves four key phases:

Evaluate

Your first step is consulting with a reproductive endocrinologist to review your medical history and discuss your pregnancy goals. Bloodwork is drawn to test your hormone levels, and then an ultrasound is performed to assess your ovarian reserve. Finally, if you are not on the birth control pill, your doctor may ask you to start taking it for a month or two to regulate your menstrual cycle.

Stimulate

To prepare your body for egg retrieval, you will receive hormone injections that stimulate the ovaries to produce as many mature eggs as possible. During this time, which usually lasts five to 10 days, you will have regular bloodwork and ultrasounds to monitor egg follicle growth in your ovaries. Medication dosages may be adjusted based on follicle development. After about two weeks, once your follicles have reached maturation, you are given a “trigger” shot 36 hours before your retrieval. Timing is very important! The trigger shot, or hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), causes your follicles to release the mature eggs just when you are ready for retrieval.

Retrieve

Eggs are retrieved during a 10-15 minute procedure in which you are under mild anesthesia.
Your doctor will use an ultrasound-guided needle attached to a catheter to remove the eggs from your ovaries. You may experience some cramping following the procedure; it takes about two weeks for your ovaries to fully recover from stimulation and retrieval.

Freeze

Once retrieved, the eggs are taken to a lab where an embryologist separates the mature from the immature eggs. All mature eggs undergo vitrification, a new technology that is the most effective way to preserve eggs. To prevent damaging ice crystals from forming, eggs are exposed to liquids known as cryoprotectants, then placed into liquid nitrogen and stored. Until recently, egg freezing happened through a slow-freeze process that often led to ice crystals forming in the eggs, destroying them. Now, the vitrification process freezes eggs so rapidly that ice crystals are unable to form, keeping the cell structure together. As a result, eggs that have been vitrified are virtually indistinguishable from freshly retrieved eggs. Within 24 hours of your retrieval, the fertility clinic will let you know the number of eggs retrieved, and the number of mature eggs frozen.

USING YOUR FROZEN EGGS TO GET PREGNANT

The beauty of egg freezing is you have control over the timeline in which you would like to conceive. You can access your frozen eggs whenever you are ready to proceed with in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Prepare For IVF Transfer

You begin by taking medications, including estrogen and progesterone, for about four weeks to prepare the endometrial lining of your uterus to accept the embryos during the IVF transfer.

Receive and Fertilize Eggs

When it’s time for the transfer, the egg bank sends your frozen eggs to the fertility clinic, where they are removed from storage and quickly rehydrated and warmed. Next, the embryologist examines your eggs to determine their quality. Then, eggs are combined with your partner's sperm using a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a single sperm is injected directly into each egg with a needle, instead of allowing sperm to penetrate the egg in a Petri dish.

IVF Transfer

After fertilization, the embryos begin to develop. The embryologist selects the most viable embryo(s) to place in your uterus three to five days after the egg retrieval. The doctor will transfer these embryos into your uterus by inserting a thin tube called a catheter through your cervix. You and your doctor will discuss the optimal number of embryos to transfer based on several parameters.

Pregnancy Test

Two weeks after the transfer, you will return to the fertility clinic to take a pregnancy test; specifically, a blood test that measures the level of hCG, also known as the pregnancy hormone. At that time, you will learn whether the cycle was a success.

Make Future Fertility Yours

Egg freezing is a reliable option to explore when considering your future family; don’t let your biological clock - or anything else - determine when the time is right for you to have children. 

This is a guest blog post.

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