At the Center of Reproductive Medicine in Houston, Texas, we are committed to offering the most advanced fertility preservation options for both men and women. The choice to preserve your fertility may result from a personal decision to delay pregnancy or perhaps you have been referred to us by your oncologist following a cancer diagnosis.
Egg Freezing is available at the Center of Reproductive Medicine and may be used by qualifying patients who wish to delay childbearing for any reason. As technology has improved, the number of women opting for cryopreservation as a means to postpone family building is steadily rising. There are many reasons for women to consider embryo preservation.
In women, fertility begins to decrease around the age of 30 and elective fertility preservation offers the option of freezing and storing eggs at a younger age, thus allowing a woman to choose when she is ready for a family. Young women may wish to delay having a child while completing their education or starting a career. Or women may wish to delay starting a family until they have found a life partner. Freezing eggs allows women to use their own younger eggs later in life in order to avoid many of the risks associated with advanced age reproduction, effectively delaying their own biological clock.
Another compelling reason to freeze eggs is to preserve fertility prior to treatment for cancer and other diseases. There are some treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, wherein there is a high likelihood that women will lose most if not all of their eggs and effectively be in menopause after they survive their cancer. In order to conserve fertility in these women, it is necessary to preserve eggs or embryos prior to treatment. Our staff is committed to assisting patients with all due urgency for care to provide services within necessary timelines so as not to delay essential treatments.
The Egg Freezing Process
Egg freezing is a process by which eggs (oocytes) are matured with the use of injectable hormones, removed, frozen, and stored for later use. Through an advanced new technique called vitrification,you use an extremely rapid cooling rates to cause the oocytes to be encased in a glass-like "gel" that prevents ice crystal formation. Egg Freezing patients undergo the same egg stimulation and recovery process that an IVF or Embryo Freezing patient does, but only to the point of egg retrieval, at which time all mature eggs are cryopreserved.
Step One: Explanation and Consents
Once you formally enter the egg freezing program, we will fully explain the process. You will meet with your medical care team, who will answer all your questions and have you sign consent acknowledging your participation in the program. Following informed consent, we can order all of the medicines you will need.
Step Two: Pre-Stimulation
Once your normal menstrual period begins, you will be instructed to start medication depending upon your individualized treatment protocol. We will optimize your protocol to generate as many mature eggs as possible. This often starts with oral contraceptives for 21 days to maximize mature egg production in the following stimulation cycle.
Step Three: Stimulation
To stimulate the ovaries to begin the growth of multiple healthy eggs that will be removed for subsequent freezing, you will need to inject yourself with fertility medications. These medications are given subcutaneously with a small needle and syringe. We will show you how to self-administer these medications prior to using them. While taking these medications, you will need to come to one of our offices first thing in the morning for monitoring. Monitoring includes painless vaginal ultrasound assessments of follicle growth and blood tests approximately 3-4 times during the 8-12 day period you are taking these medications. After your ovarian follicles have attained a sufficient size and your blood level of estrogen is adequate, you will be instructed to take an intramuscular injection (“trigger shot") that will prepare your eggs for retrieval.
Step Four: Egg Retrieval
You will be scheduled for egg retrieval, which is performed 36 hours after taking the intramuscular injection. You will receive pain medication to relieve the mild discomfort associated with the procedure. The egg retrieval should take no more than 10 -15 minutes to accomplish. You should be able to go home when it has been determined that you are stable, usually within one hour of the procedure.
Step Five: Oocyte Freezing & Storage
Following your egg retrieval, the eggs will be prepared for freezing using vitrification. The vitrification process will protect the eggs from ice crystal formation. They will then be transferred to a liquid nitrogen storage chamber where they will be effectively stored in the frozen state.
Step Six: Thaw and Use of Your Frozen Eggs
When you decide to try to become pregnant, you will need to make arrangements with our facility at least two months in advance to go over what is required prior to thawing, fertilization, and transfer of embryos. To fertilize previously cryopreserved eggs, we use intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which avoids most of the usual barriers to fertilization by the direct injection of a single sperm into an egg. Originally this procedure was designed to specifically treat male infertility, but is now used in many cases of IVF treatment where fertilization needs to be maximized. One or two resulting embryos can be painlessly transferred under ultrasound guidance. Any remaining embryos that are deemed to be potentially viable can be frozen for later use if desired.
Who Should Freeze Their Eggs?
At the Center of Reproductive Medicine, our team of fertility specialists will help you decide if egg freezing is the right option for you. Contact CORM today if you are:
- A woman who wishes to delay childbearing for career or personal reasons
- A woman who wishes to delay childbearing until meeting a suitable partner
- A woman diagnosed with cancer and concerned about chemo/radiation therapy
- A woman undergoing cyclophosphamide therapy to treat kidney disease
- A woman who has a family history of early menopause
- A woman who wishes to donate eggs for our Frozen Egg Bank Program
- A couple wishing to freeze eggs rather than embryos for religious/ethical reasons
Am I A Candidate For Egg Freezing?
If you are considering the egg freezing option, we urge you to contact any of our office locations. We will review your medical records prior to your scheduled visit to determine if this program is a good fit for you. An initial consultation is required prior to program enrollment.
Egg freezing depends upon egg production, which is based on the number of eggs that are still in your ovaries and how they will respond to the medications required for the ovaries to make eggs. The three most important factors in determining your chances for potential success with egg freezing are:
- Baseline (Cycle Day 3) level of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Estradiol (E2) as determined by a blood test
- Resting ovarian follicle count as determined by pelvic ultrasound
Don't Let Your Biological Clock Stop Your Chances For A Family
FACT: As a woman ages, the number of her eggs diminish and their quality deteriorates. Because of the reduced number of eggs, there is a decreased chance for pregnancy and, with their sub-optimal quality, there is a higher incidence of abnormal embryos resulting in more miscarriages.
FACT: The risk for having a baby born with a chromosomal abnormality at age 40 is 1/66 compared to 1/476 at age 25.
FACT: By the age of 40 the average fertility rate is 15% of that of a woman at age 25.
FACT: A woman’s peak fertility is between the ages of 18 and 25.
FACT: Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have.