Everything You Might Want To Know About Egg Freezing
Everyone's fertility journey looks different. Egg freezing may help you postpone your pregnancy until you are ready for it. Here are some things you should know about the process.
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, is not a new concept. The first human birth from a frozen egg happened back in 1986, and there have been significant advances in the area ever since. Yet, there is not much discussion surrounding this topic. Even though celebrities such as Halsey, Rebel Wilson, Rita Ora, Emma Roberts have talked about their decision to freeze their eggs, there is still societal stigma around conversations on infertility or assisted reproductive technology. Moreover, fertility journey being an emotional experience, many individuals choose to keep it private. This lack of conversation leads to lack of awareness and inadequate knowledge about reproductive health. There can be many reasons for an individual to opt for egg freezing, both medical and social—conditions that affect fertility, cancer treatment, or the choice to have kids later in life. If you are curious to learn more, we break it down for you.
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Some Things to Keep in Mind About Egg Freezing
- How the process works: The first step in the process of egg freezing is the assessment or the screening process. Ovarian reserve testing, which assesses the potential for fertility and harvesting the eggs, is done through tests such as a blood test for AMH (anti-Müllerian Hormone), Day 3 FSH test (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), and ultrasound for antral follicle count. A screening for infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis is also performed. If the test results are satisfactory, then ovarian stimulation is done via hormones administered through injections and pills, to facilitate superovulation (induced production of multiple eggs). Then, an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin helps the eggs mature, and the follicles are sucked out during a transvaginal ultrasound. The oocytes are then flash frozen (a method with better results than slow freezing) and preserved for future use.
- The age factor: With increasing age, the egg count and quality decline. Dr. Jayanta Kumar Gupta, director and head of Obstetrics-Gynaecology, Apollo Multispeciality Hospital, Kolkata, says, “The ideal egg freezing time is in the early to mid-20s. That is when the eggs are in the best condition. But it can also be done up to one’s early 30s. But after 35, the quality of the eggs declines.” So while the age limit may slightly vary, your 20s and early 30s are generally considered the best time for freezing your eggs.
- The viability and success rates: There are a lot of factors that determine the viability and success rate of the different stages of the whole process. Dr. Gupta says, “About 90% of the eggs can be thawed from their frozen state. But the fertilisation process depends on factors involving the sperm, and there is no guarantee that even after fertilisation, all of the fertilised eggs will survive in the uterus. The age at which the pregnancy will happen can also be a factor. So there are multiple factors that determine the success of the whole process. Nonetheless, egg freezing can be said to be a groundbreaking development.” Oocyte cryopreservation has definitely been a major step towards aiding the ability to have children in the future.
- Egg freezing costs in India: The financial aspect can be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to freezing your eggs, as it is costly, although it is comparatively more affordable in India than in Western countries. The process of egg retrieval and freezing can cost from under Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 1.5 lakh or more. On top of that, there is an annual cost for keeping the frozen eggs stored, which can range from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 50,000.
- How long you can store your eggs for: Although there are no strict limits about how long you can keep your frozen eggs stored, and they may be kept indefinitely, most people usually keep the frozen oocytes stored for five to ten years.
- The potential downsides: While considered generally safe, there may be potential risks associated with the process. Says Dr. Gupta, “There can be some side effects to the process of ovulation induction. One such potential side effect is called OHSS, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, where, instead of producing, say, 10 to 12 eggs, due to overstimulation, the ovaries swell up. In severe cases, it can be life threatening. The other thing to keep in mind is that the whole process is very emotionally draining. There is also no guarantee that the frozen eggs will result in a child.” While mild OHSS can be common, severe cases of OHSS are usually rare. Careful monitoring and necessary medical attention can help address it.
The field of Assisted Reproductive Technology has been seeing significant developments with time, and has changed the game for reproductive health. Egg freezing is one such advancement that can offer the opportunity to preserve fertility, keeping in mind the future.
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