Egg Freezing

Egg freezing is one of several assisted reproductive technologies that the centre offers patients.

The process offers new hope to patients diagnosed with cancer before undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

From a practical standpoint, vitrification is very simple and actually removes the need for the expensive programmable controlled-rate freezers currently used to freeze egg and embryos. It ensures there is no ice-crystal build-up and consequent damage, a problem that has plagued other methods of egg preservation.

In the process of vitrification an oocyte is placed in a very small volume of vitrification medium and is then cooled at an extremely rapid rate. The fast freezing eliminates the formation of ice crystals in the oocyte. Subsequent to the vitrification, the oocyte is stored in liquid nitrogen until such time as it is to be thawed and fertilized.

Although the feasibility of vitrification of human oocytes has been confirmed, it is important to note, however, that because the numbers are still very small, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) considers egg freezing investigational unless it’s being done as a heroic measure for women who may risk loosing their reproductive function as a consequence of surgery or chemotherapy for cancer.

What are the pros and cons of egg freezing?

Foremost amongst the cons is that there is no guarantee that the eggs once thawed will be healthy and able to cause a pregnancy which results in a healthy baby. Thus far, there are 200+ babies born from this technology and no reported increase in genetic abnormalities or congenital anomalies. However, egg freezing is new technology and is still considered experimental. Careful data collection is being undertaken and more studies in the future will continue to shed light on the process. At some date in the future, it may be shown that other freezing protocols are preferred and that the current technology is "outdated."

In regards to pros of the Egg Freezing process, it may allow women a chance at a genetic child that they would not have had otherwise. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy can forever damage eggs and render a woman infertile. Finding the man of your dreams at age 43 is great, but it may be too late to have children unless you have eggs frozen or use donor eggs. The same can be said of waiting until you are secure in your chosen career.

Am I a good candidate for egg freezing?

Egg freezing is not for everyone. It is an expensive procedure involving daily shots, minor outpatient surgery, and emotional stress. However, if you are currently healthy, well-informed, and willing to go through the process, it may ultimately allow you the genetic family you always dreamed of. Women less than 40 years of age, with a normal FSH hormone level, who are not currently wanting to get pregnant (either due to upcoming medical treatment, lack of a male partner, or more personal decisions regarding time management and family planning) are good candidates. You need to be available for appointments and not traveling for approximately 2 weeks.

What other options exist for women who know they want children but are not ready to get pregnant now? Women should consider other options, some of which have a higher chance of successfully delivering a baby. Married couples or couples in committed relationships may want to consider going through IVF and freezing embryos for implantation into the uterus at a later date, as embryos have been demonstrated to freeze better than eggs. Women with serious medical conditions, such as cancer, may wish to undertake chemotherapy/surgery now and once cured, consider adoption, embryo adoption, or egg donation if their ovaries are no longer functional. If they no longer have a uterus but have functioning ovaries, they can consider gestational carrier-IVF.

Women without a male partner may want to consider donor inseminations, or a fresh IVF cycle with donor sperm, and having a baby now. They could also choose to freeze embryos created with donor sperm for the future.

If women choose to wait until the "time is right" and then discover that their age is preventing them from conceiving, egg donation and adoption are always options. Although the child is not genetically hers (and only genetically related to the male partner) the woman would be able to carry the pregnancy, deliver and breast feed, with her name listed as `mother' on the birth certificate.