Singapore Women's & Children's Medical Group

Considering Egg Freezing? Know What To Expect

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The opportunity to freeze eggs can be life-changing for some. However, this option may not be suitable for all, particularly due to the complex procedure and the fact that it does not guarantee pregnancy. Women should not feel compelled to freeze their eggs without taking into consideration their health, family planning, as well as the procedures and its associated cost, among many other factors. The decision making should require a long conversation between patients and doctors.

When to consider egg freezing

Egg freezing might be a viable option if you are not prepared to start a family but want to try in the future. Unlike fertilized egg freezing (embryo cryopreservation), egg freezing does not involve sperm because the eggs are not fertilized prior to freezing. You will be prescribed drugs to stimulate ovulation to produce eggs for retrieval.

You might consider egg freezing if:

  • You have underlying illnesses that influences your chances of pregnancy, such as autoimmune diseases like lupus or diabetes.
  • You due for cancer treatment. Radiation or chemotherapy can greatly affect your fertility hence egg freezing prior to undergoing treatment might enable you to be pregnant later.
  • You are currently undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). During IVF, some people prefer egg freezing to embryo freezing for religious or ethical reasons.
  • You wish to preserve younger eggs for future use.

What are the risks involved in egg freezing

Just as other procedures, egg freezing carries some risk, including:

  • Side effects relating to the fertility drugs. Though rare, the use of injectable fertility drugs can result in swollen and painful ovaries soon after the procedure.
  • Egg retrieval complications. Rarely, use of an aspirating needle to retrieve eggs causes bleeding, infection or damage to the bowel, bladder or a blood vessel.

The overall risk of miscarriage will be based on the woman’s age at the time of egg freezing. Older women generally have higher miscarriage rates, due to older eggs. Studies have not shown an increase in risk of birth defects for babies birthed through egg freezing.

Preparing for egg freezing

If you are contemplating egg freezing, look for a fertility clinic with specialists in the field.

Prior to the start of the egg-freezing process, you will be screened for various test such ass:

  • Ovarian reserve testing: this test ascertains the quantity and overall quality of your eggs, predicting how each individual’s ovaries react to fertility medications.
  • Blood tests as well as an ultrasound of the ovaries for more comprehensive understanding of your ovarian function.
  • Infectious disease screening to check for certain infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

What to expect during egg freezing

Egg freezing has multiple steps — ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and freezing.

1. Ovarian stimulation

Synthetic hormones may be taken for ovarian stimulation. Such prescriptions include injectable medication for ovarian stimulation as well as to prevent premature ovulation.

Follow-up visits will involve vaginal ultrasound to examine the development of fluid-filled sacs where eggs mature (follicles).

After approximately 10-14 days, follicles are ready for egg retrieval, an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (Pregnyl, Ovidrel) or another medication can help the eggs mature.

2. Egg retrieval

The procedure is performed under sedation, typically in a clinic. The conventional approach is transvaginal ultrasound aspiration, during which a probe is inserted into the vagina to identify the follicles.

A needle is then guided through the vagina and into a follicle. A suction device connected to the needle is used to remove the egg from the follicle. Multiple eggs can be removed, and studies show that the more eggs retrieved— up to 15 per cycle — the better the chances of birth.

It is not uncommon to experience cramping after the procedure. Feelings of fullness or pressure might go on for weeks due to enlarged ovaries.

3. Freezing

After the eggs are retrieved, they will be frozen to subzero temperatures for preservation. In comparison to a fertilised egg (embryo), the makeup of an unfertilized egg makes it a bit more challenging to freeze which in turn lower the chances of pregnancy

The most procedure of egg freezing is called vitrification. High concentrations of substances are used prevent the formation of ice crystals during the cooling process (cryoprotectants).

4. Post procedure

Most women can resume normal activities within a week post procedure. You are strongly advised to avoid unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy.

Contact your doctor immediately if you have:

  • A fever higher than 38 C
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Weight gain of more than 1kg in 24 hours
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Difficulty urinating

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