Egg Freezing - Cryopreservation, for Fertility Preservation
Page author Richard Sherbahn MD
We are currently freezing eggs using the highly successful vitrification method at the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago
We offer egg freezing for:
- Fertility preservation for women with cancer that will soon start chemotherapy or radiation
- Fertility preservation for women that want to store "younger" eggs for the future
We also offer frozen eggs for egg donation
Cryopreservation of oocytes - what is egg freezing?
Human egg (oocyte) freezing, or cryopreservation, has been done since the 1980s. However, its use has become much more widespread since about 2007.
Starting in about 2007, egg freezing moved more into the "mainstream" of what is being offered at fertility centers in the US. It is being marketed and utilized as a method for "preserving fertility" for women that are concerned that they are aging - but not ready to have children yet.
- Advancing female age is a major factor causing infertility
In October 2012 the Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a report saying that in young patients egg freezing techniques have shown pregnancy rates and births of healthy babies that are comparable to IVF cycles using fresh eggs. They therefore removed the "experimental" designation for egg freezing at that time.
Since then, many women have chosen to freeze their eggs in an attempt to preserve their fertility for the future.
Potential reasons for freezing eggs
Chemotherapy and fertility
Sometimes women of reproductive age are diagnosed with breast cancer or other cancers that require treatment with toxic chemotherapy or radiation. Many of the powerful drugs used to kill cancer cells are also toxic to eggs. Likewise for radiation to the pelvic area.
Therefore, chemotherapy or radiation treatments will often result in premature menopause, or will severely reduce the woman's ovarian reserve (egg supply for the future).
Egg freezing (also called oocyte cryopreservation) to attempt fertility preservation in cancer patients should usually be discussed if they want children in the future. In such a scenario, the woman would have some of her eggs frozen prior to starting cancer treatment. She could use the frozen eggs in the future after being cured of cancer, if needed.
Women delaying starting a family for personal reasons
The other, and much larger group of women that will use egg freezing for fertility preservation are women that are freezing eggs because they are not ready to have children yet. This has been referred to as “social egg freezing” in the past.
These women choose to freeze some eggs at a young age (often in the late 20's or early 30's) for use later when they are ready to have children. They are hoping to " freeze the biological clock" for those eggs.
Some of these women would like to start a family soon but want to wait until they are in a stable long-term relationship. Otherwise, women often want to delay childbearing because they are busy pursuing education, or focusing on their career, or they are just are not ready yet.
Laboratory techniques and egg freezing methods
Vitrification (ultra-rapid freezing) of eggs seems to be a more successful technique as compared to the older technique of "slow freezing". Many US clinics (including ours) have been utilizing vitrification to freeze eggs and are seeing good results.
Eggs and their attached cumulus cells - as seen at the egg retrieval procedure
At the top, a pipette is picking up an egg
The egg is in the middle of the dark area
This picture is from a stereo-microscope
Close-up view of a human egg in cumulus cells
This picture is from an inverted microscope
More egg pictures