Get the facts on how you can extend your fertility options from fertility expert Dr. John Jain as he joins this episode of the Emmy-award winning daytime talk show The Doctors. Dr. Jain is an internationally recognized expert in egg freezing research and explains the benefits associated with this innovative breakthrough in fertility treatment.
What Is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing, or “Oocyte cryopreservation,” is a breakthrough technology that allows women to freeze and store their eggs until a pregnancy is desired, at which time the eggs are thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
Until recently, few practices have had the experience or capability to offer this service. EFC, however, is at the vanguard of egg freezing technology. Dr. Jain is a leading expert in egg freezing research with broad experience in all areas of fertility treatment. He completed his medical training at the University of Southern California, where he remained for nearly a decade as a tenured professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His egg freezing work there earned him international recognition as a pioneer in the field and has translated to outstanding results for our patients.
Who May Benefit?
Many women today are feeling the pressure of having to choose between a career and a family. Some are returning to school or pursuing advanced degrees and don’t know when or if they will have children. For many, it may simply be an issue of not having found the right person yet. For all of these women, egg freezing is revolutionary not just in its technology, but in the freedom it can offer in allowing them to postpone childbearing.
Over 50,000 reproductive-aged women are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments typically lead to infertility by destroying the eggs. While options vary depending on age, type of cancer and cancer-treatment plan, egg freezing can provide these women the opportunity to preserve their fertility.
Finally, egg freezing can be useful for individuals with religious or moral objections to storing frozen embryos. Frequently, in routine IVF, any excess embryos that remain are frozen for future use. However, if they are not to be used, their disposal can create a difficult ethical issue. The ability to freeze unfertilized eggs offers a positive solution for many people.
How Egg Freezing Works
Unlike sperm and embryo cryopreservation, which have become routine processes in assisted reproductive technology, success with freezing eggs has historically been difficult to achieve. This is because the egg is the largest cell in the human body and contains a considerable amount of water. When eggs are frozen, ice crystals form that can destroy the cell. To prevent this, the egg must be dehydrated prior to freezing. The water is then replaced by a special fluid called a cryoprotectant that inhibits the formation of ice crystals. Because the eggshell hardens when frozen, sperm must be injected with a needle in order to fertilize the egg. This is known as ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and is a standard technique also used in IVF.
At EFC, eggs are frozen using the vitrification method which is superior to the older slow-freeze method. Our live birth rate per embryo transfer is 45% using this method.
It takes approximately four to six weeks to complete the egg freezing cycle, which follows the same protocol as IVF: Two to four weeks of birth control pills to temporarily turn off natural hormones; followed by ten to fourteen days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple eggs; then eggs are then retrieved through the vagina using an ultrasound-guided needle while under anesthesia. Immediately following retrieval, the eggs are frozen. When embryo transfer is desired, the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and then transferred to the uterus as embryos.
The thaw rate per egg is now over 90%, reflecting advancements in the field of egg cryopreservation. We recommend women under the age of 40 consider freezing 6-8 eggs for each pregnancy attempt. This number typically yields 2-4 good embryos for transfer. For women under forty years of age, we normally harvest 10-15 eggs per cycle thus giving 2 attempts at a future pregnancy. Based on our success with embryo freezing, we feel confident that long-term storage of frozen eggs is possible.
At EFC, our frozen egg pregnancy rates are among the highest in the country – 45% with the vitrification method.
Due to the age cutoffs in egg freezing studies, there is limited birth information on egg freezing in women over 40. We recently celebrated the birth of a healthy child for one of our patients who froze her eggs at age 43 and delivered at age 47. This birth represents the oldest frozen egg baby to date. We are happy to share our experience and advise women over 40 who are contemplating this treatment.
To date, approximately 5000 babies have been born worldwide from frozen eggs. Among these births, the rate of birth defects and chromosomal defects has been no higher than that which we see in the general population. Genetic screening of embryos is now highly accurate and available.