By Debbie Merryman, Embryology Laboratory Director
Women haven’t always had the choice of freezing their eggs. Now that it’s an option, all women should be well informed on this new assisted reproductive technology. Below is a set of common questions and answers regarding egg freezing to help you better understand the process and how/if it can benefit you.
Q: What’s involved in the process of egg freezing?
· The ovaries are stimulated to increase the number of eggs available to freeze, much like what happens during in vitro fertilization (IVF). When the egg sacs on the ovaries appear developed, the eggs are removed. The eggs are then immediately frozen.
· Eggs are frozen using an ultra-rapid cooling process known as vitrification.
· When a woman is ready to use her eggs, they are thawed and inseminated with the sperm of her partner or a donor. The resulting embryos (fertilized eggs) are cultured in the laboratory and the best one or two are transferred to the uterus. Remaining embryos can be frozen for later use.
· This process takes between 2 to 6 weeks to complete.
Q: Who should consider egg freezing?
· Women diagnosed with cancer that have not yet begun chemotherapy or radiotherapy. (Women are recommended to talk to their oncologist about the potential for egg freezing.)
· Women undergoing treatment with IVF who do not wish to freeze embryos.
· Women who would like to preserve their future ability to have children; either because they do not yet have a partner, they elect to defer childbearing to later in life, or for other personal or medical reasons.
Q: Is there certain criteria to be met in order to be a candidate for egg freezing?
· Freezing eggs at an early age may increase the chance for a future pregnancy. Freezing before age 38 gives the best success as there are more eggs to obtain and more are genetically normal. Some women freeze more than one cycle to obtain enough eggs to increase the chance of having a healthy baby.
Q: What are the benefits of egg freezing?
· Egg freezing offers women with cancer the chance to preserve their eggs so that they can have children in the future.
· Women who freeze eggs during an IVF cycle have the opportunity to undergo future IVF attempts without the use of stimulating the ovaries.
· Egg freezing can be beneficial for women who, for purposes of education, career or other reasons, desire to postpone childbearing.
Q: How long can the eggs remain frozen?
· Theoretically, the eggs can remain frozen indefinitely.
Q: Is egg freezing covered under insurance?
· Egg freezing is not typically a covered procedure for most insurance companies.
· The ART Fertility Program of Alabama participates in Livestrong’s Fertile Hope for Women (and Men) Program (email - cancer.navigation@LIVESTRONG.org, telephone - 855-220-7777). This program helps to defray the costs of fertility preservation for qualified cancer patients.
· Should you have questions about the cost of these procedures or insurance coverage, please call the ART Fertility Program of Alabama’s financial department at 205-870-9784.
Q: How well does the process work?
· Frozen eggs have resulted in over 2,000 babies born worldwide. The ART Fertility Program was the first in
to have babies from frozen eggs (2009). Alabama
· No increases in chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, or developmental defects have been noted in children born from frozen eggs.
· The success rate with frozen eggs is related to the age of the woman at the time of freeze and the number of eggs frozen.
Q: What is the ART Fertility Program of Alabama’s current success rate?
· Thus far, 6 patients have received embryos derived from frozen-thawed eggs resulting in 3 deliveries and 1 ongoing (third trimester) pregnancy.
We hope you now have a better understanding of egg freezing, and who can benefit. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to call the ART Fertility Program of Alabama at 205-870-9784.