The first pregnancy that resulted from a previously frozen egg occurred in 1986, and since then, egg-freezing has grown from the stuff of science fiction into a valuable (and viable!) option for people trying to preserve fertility.
Thinking of freezing your eggs? Here are some things to consider
The most common reason to freeze eggs is as a precaution against health concerns that can hurt fertility, such as cancer treatments or genetic tendencies towards premature infertility. However, today, many women are freezing eggs as a way of prolonging their window of fertility and increasing their chances of having healthy children later.
How it really works
Women who freeze their eggs follow the same early steps as women who are undergoing in-vitro fertilization. Egg-freezing is, essentially, preparing for in-vitro fertilization — just at a later date and using younger eggs. Women undergo four days of hormone therapy in order to stimulate their egg growth, and on the fifth day (in a 20-minute operation) the eggs are extracted through a needle, one at a time. From there, they’re dehydrated so that ice crystals don’t form and damage the egg. Once the water has been removed with chemical solvents, the eggs are placed in storage containers that are frozen in liquid nitrogen to preserve them for up to 10 years.
Pros of egg-freezing
As women and men age, their chances of conceiving naturally go down, and the chances of birth defects and genetic abnormalities of any offspring go up. By preserving some of their eggs when they’re younger, women hope to avoid these potential issues and give themselves a better chance of conceiving in the future.
The main appeal of egg-freezing, both for women facing fertility issues based on their health and women who want more time to plan their families, is that it extends the length of time when there’s a chance of having biological children.
Cons of egg-freezing
Freezing your eggs isn’t necessarily an easy or simple decision. The procedure generally costs around $10,000 and is not often covered by health insurance. Additionally, there is no guarantee that it will result in a pregnancy carried to term, especially if you’re not in peak fertility when your eggs are frozen.
The process of harvesting the eggs doesn’t usually have many side effects, but the injection of artificial hormones always carries with it the chance of symptoms or negative reactions.
The bottom line
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Egg Freezing.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Web. December 30, 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/egg-freezing/about/pac-20384556