All About Egg Freezing: The Process, Aftercare, and The Cost of Egg Freezing
Growing up, women would have come across people saying, “don’t get pregnant too late, or you won’t have healthy babies.” Did you know that you can have healthy babies while going through a safe pregnancy even if you are “too late” for that? Egg Freezing, also known as Oocyte Cryopreservation is a process where a woman’s eggs are retrieved, frozen, and stored for future use. It helps women to preserve their fertility so that they can achieve pregnancy later in life. Understanding the process, aftercare, and cost of egg freezing is crucial before taking the decision to preserve your fertility and opt for the egg freezing procedure.
Understanding Egg Freezing
It can be harder for women in their late 30s to get pregnant. As women get older, their number of eggs decreases until they reach menopause. Menopause is when a woman’s period stops and her hormonal level drops. During puberty, women have up to an approximation of 250,000 eggs. By the age of 40, the number gradually reduces to less than 25 000 eggs, followed by a rapid decline until menopause.
The number of quality eggs also decreases after a woman reaches her 40s. This can also mean that this number can lead to miscarriage and abnormal babies. This is probably why you hear people say to not get pregnant late. Do not worry, because, with egg freezing, you have a chance of a successful and healthy pregnancy. If you start preserving eggs at a young age, you are likely to conceive a healthy baby later in life.
Before we go into the details, here is a brief explanation of the process of egg freezing. When you are considering freezing your eggs, you will have to consult a fertility specialist. During the consultation, the fertility specialist usually will brief the process and procedures involved and conduct relevant medical tests. The fertility specialist will also explain to you the cost of egg freezing and aftercare. After a few years, when you are ready to start a family, you can contact your fertility specialist to go through the process of fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Who should do Egg Freezing?
You may come from different social and cultural backgrounds, and wonder if you can do egg freezing. You may consider egg freezing and preserving your fertility if you have reasons such as below:
• You are pursuing education or stepping up on your career ladder so you wish to delay childbearing.
• You have personal goals or are not just ready to conceive yet.
• You may not be in a relationship yet and are waiting for the right partner to come along.
• You may be having autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune disease refers to a condition where the immune system attacks your own body and this may result in fertility issues later. Thus, you can consider freezing your eggs before starting medication for these diseases.
• You may want to save the eggs before undergoing cancer treatment. Undergoing chemotherapy can potentially harm fertility. Thus, your doctor may advise you to opt for egg freezing to preserve your fertility before undergoing treatments.
• You are considering storing frozen eggs rather than frozen embryos for future IVF procedures due to religious or moral reasons.
What Will You Go Through During the Egg Freezing Process?
There are 3 main steps involved in egg freezing which can be divided into pre, during and post-egg freezing. In pre-egg freezing, you will go through fertility consultation and assessment which will then be followed by preparation and observation. Once the eggs are matured, the eggs will be collected using a simple procedure called egg retrieval. The post-egg freezing phase involves the freezing and storing of the eggs. Here is a detailed explanation for each step so that you can get ready and prepare yourself to undergo the egg freezing procedure.
1. Fertility Consultation & Assessment
The first step in the egg freezing process is to find a fertility clinic or book a consultation with a fertility specialist and understand the cost of egg freezing and aftercare. During the consultation, the fertility specialist will look into your medical records and explain the procedure thoroughly.
After the explanation, the fertility specialist will conduct additional tests such as blood tests and ultrasounds. The blood test is done to determine the level of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) while transvaginal ultrasound is done to assess the number of eggs
available. The fertility specialist will then discuss the results of the assessment with you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clear all your doubts during the consultation session. It is important for you to properly understand the procedures before heading on to the next step.
After the consultation, the fertility specialist will schedule a different date to conduct the egg retrieval procedure. Egg retrieval is a process where eggs are collected from your ovaries. For this process to flow smoothly, the fertility specialist will guide you through the steps for daily hormone injections for the next 10 days. This injection is given to stimulate the ovaries.
During the observation, the fertility specialist will monitor the progress of the eggs’ growth with an ultrasound, about two to three times during the injection phase. This process will require you to frequently visit your specialist, so it is best if you can allocate your time well for the appointments.
4. Egg Retrieval
Before the egg retrieval day, the fertility specialist may ask you to not consume food or drinks after midnight. On the day of egg retrieval, you will be put under sedation. The doctor will then conduct vaginal ultrasound, where a needle with a suction device is inserted through the vaginal wall into the ovary. The device then extracts the eggs from the ovary. This process will roughly take about 15 minutes. After the retrieval, you might feel cramps/abdominal pain which can last for a few days.
5. Frozen & Stored
After the eggs are taken out, they go through the flash-freezing process (vitrification). This is a process where eggs will be frozen quickly to prevent ice crystals from forming and further damaging the eggs. A team of expert embryologists will freeze the eggs in liquid nitrogen at around -196C in a lab. A substance called cryoprotectant is used to avoid any damage to the eggs during the freezing process. Once the eggs are frozen, they will be safely stored in a special storage facility.
6.Defrost & Fertilise
When you are ready to start your own family, your eggs will be taken out of storage, thawed, and fertilised with your partner’s sperm to create an embryo which will usually be placed into your womb via the IVF method to help you achieve pregnancy.
Things To Look Out During Egg Freezing
There are a few things to look out for during the egg freezing process such as the use of drugs and complications. Do not worry because these are rare occurrences. However, it is best to be aware of these things so you can prepare yourself.
1. Fertility drugs
- If you are diagnosed with ovulation disorder, the specialist might suggest injecting fertility drugs such as a synthetic follicle-stimulating hormone or luteinizing hormone to control ovulation. If you are given the injection, there are chances of having cramps, vomiting, nausea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
2. Complications in the egg retrieval process
- Complications may occur while inserting a needle into the vaginal wall. This may cause bleeding, infection, and bladder injuries.
Egg Freezing After Care
Once the process is done, it does not stop there. There is a set of aftercare that is essential for you. Here are a few recommendations while you recover from the egg freezing process:
- If you are feeling uncomfortable, you can use heating pads. You might be feeling cramps or pain after egg retrieval, so using the heating pads can help to soothe the pain.
- You can also ask your fertility specialist for medications as an alternative to ease the discomfort.
- Steer clear from harmful substances like alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
- Avoid having unprotected sexual activities as it may cause pain.
- You can do physical activities but keep it light. Light walking is fine. Refrain yourself from doing vigorous activities such as heavy lifting, and walking fast.
- Say no to douching, or vaginal creams during the recovery.
- If you are going through any of these side effects listed below during this time, please contact the fertility clinic or your fertility specialist:
o High fever
o Heavy cramps
o Increase in body weight
o Heavy vaginal bleeding
What is The Cost of Egg Freezing?
The cost of egg freezing can vary according to clinics and the individual. In our clinic, the cost is around RM15 000. There is also an additional fee of RM 1 000 for storing the eggs yearly. However, if you want to know about the fee, it is advisable to contact us for the latest fees.
If you are considering delaying your pregnancy for your own reasons, keep in mind that you now have the option for it. The process is not as scary as you think. As long as you follow your fertility specialist’s instructions, advice, and precautions, you will do fine. You can freeze the eggs and start your family in the near (far) future.
If you want to know more about the process or have specific questions to clarify, do list them down and call 03-80699333 (TMC Fertility & Women’s Specialist Centre, Puchong) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment to consult with Dr. Navdeep.
To know more about egg freezing you can also visit the YouTube page : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkzM31TsASM