Egg/Oocyte Cryopreservation: Procedure, Risks & Benefits

by | Aug 28, 2023 | IVF

Listen to this article

What is Oocyte Cryopreservation/Vitrification or Egg Freezing?

Oocyte Cryopreservation, commonly known as egg freezing, is a revolutionary reproductive technology that allows individuals to preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs for later use. This process involves extracting mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries, freezing them using a technique called vitrification, and storing them until they are ready to be used. This method has gained significant attention and popularity in recent years due to its potential to empower women to have more control over their reproductive choices.

 

Who Needs Oocyte Cryopreservation/Vitrification?

There are several scenarios where individuals might consider oocyte cryopreservation:

  1. Medical Reasons: Women undergoing medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, which can harm ovarian function, may opt for egg freezing to preserve their fertility before undergoing these treatments.
  2. Delaying Parenthood: Career pursuits, educational goals, or personal reasons might lead women to delay starting a family. Egg freezing provides a way to extend their fertility timeline, offering peace of mind that their eggs are preserved.
  3. Family Planning: Some women may choose to freeze eggs when they’re younger and have healthier eggs, even if they are not ready to become parents. This is a proactive approach to ensure viable eggs are available when they decide to start a family.
  4. Genetic Reasons: Individuals with a family history of early menopause or genetic conditions might consider egg freezing as a way to secure healthy eggs before potential fertility challenges arise.

 

How is Oocyte Cryopreservation Done?

The process of oocyte cryopreservation involves several key steps:

  1. Ovarian Stimulation: To maximize the number of eggs retrieved, the woman’s ovaries are stimulated using hormonal medications. This stimulates the development of multiple follicles, each containing an egg.
  2. Egg Retrieval: Once the follicles are mature, a minor surgical procedure is performed to retrieve the eggs. This is typically done using a thin needle guided by ultrasound.
  3. Vitrification: The retrieved eggs are then prepared for vitrification, a rapid freezing technique that prevents the formation of ice crystals within the eggs. Ice crystals can damage the delicate structures of the eggs. Vitrification involves quickly cooling the eggs to extremely low temperatures, effectively “pausing” their development.
  4. Storage: The vitrified eggs are stored in specialized containers at cryogenic temperatures, usually around -196°C (-321°F). These storage facilities are carefully monitored to ensure the eggs remain viable over time.

 

How Frozen Eggs Will Be Used in the Future?

The future applications of frozen eggs hold immense promise:

  1. Fertility Preservation: For individuals facing medical treatments that could impact their fertility, the ability to use their frozen eggs offers hope for starting a family after their treatment is completed.
  2. Delayed Parenthood: Egg freezing allows women to pursue their career or personal goals without worrying about the ticking biological clock. They can choose to use their frozen eggs when they are emotionally and financially ready for parenthood.
  3. Genetic Planning: As genetic testing techniques advance, frozen eggs could be screened for certain genetic conditions before being fertilized. This enables parents to make informed decisions about embryo implantation, reducing the risk of passing on genetic disorders.
  4. Choice and Autonomy: Egg freezing provides women with the autonomy to choose when and how they want to become parents. It can reduce the pressure to find a partner at a specific age solely for the purpose of starting a family.

 

What is the Success rate of Pregnancy Using Frozen Oocytes in India?

the success rate of pregnancy using frozen-thawed oocytes has been steadily improving, thanks to advancements in assisted reproductive technologies. While exact statistics may vary, it’s generally observed that the success rate for pregnancy using frozen-thawed oocytes is influenced by various factors including the woman’s age, the quality of the frozen eggs, and the expertise of the fertility clinic.

The success rate is typically higher for women who freeze their eggs at a younger age, as younger eggs tend to have better quality and higher chances of successful fertilization and implantation. Additionally, the proficiency of the clinic in the process of freezing and thawing eggs plays a significant role. With experienced fertility specialists and state-of-the-art equipment, the chances of a successful pregnancy are further enhanced.

 

Benefits of Oocyte Cryopreservation:

Oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, offers several compelling benefits to women and couples:

  1. Extended Fertility Window: One of the most significant advantages is the ability to extend the fertility window. As a woman’s fertility naturally declines with age, freezing eggs at a younger age preserves the higher quality eggs for use in the future.
  2. Medical Flexibility: For women facing medical treatments that may harm fertility, such as cancer therapies, egg freezing provides a way to safeguard their reproductive potential before undergoing treatments that could affect egg quality.
  3. Empowerment: Egg freezing empowers women to take control of their reproductive choices. It offers the freedom to pursue education, career goals, or personal aspirations without the pressure of an expiring biological clock.
  4. Genetic Health: With genetic screening technologies, frozen eggs can be tested for certain genetic disorders before being fertilized. This helps in selecting embryos with a lower risk of inherited diseases.
  5. Partner Compatibility: For couples, egg freezing can alleviate the stress of finding a partner within a specific fertility timeframe. This enables couples to focus on building their relationship before embarking on parenthood.

 

Risks Associated with the Oocyte Cryopreservation Procedure:

While oocyte cryopreservation is generally considered safe, there are some risks to be aware of:

  1. Egg Quality: The success of pregnancy using frozen eggs depends on the quality of the eggs at the time of freezing. Eggs with poor quality may not survive the thawing process or may result in lower chances of successful fertilization and implantation.
  2. Thawing Challenges: Not all frozen eggs survive the thawing process intact. Some eggs may not survive the transition from frozen to thawed state, leading to a reduction in the number of viable eggs for fertilization.
  3. Ethical Considerations: The practice of egg freezing raises ethical questions about the potential long-term effects on the child’s health and well-being. However, ongoing research aims to address these concerns and ensure the safety of the procedure.
  4. Emotional Impact: The process of egg freezing can be emotionally challenging, as it involves a significant investment of time, money, and physical discomfort. There might also be emotional stress associated with the uncertainty of the outcome.
  5. Cost: The cost of oocyte cryopreservation can be substantial, including expenses for hormonal stimulation, egg retrieval, freezing, and storage. This can make the procedure inaccessible for some individuals.

 

How Long Can the Eggs Be Stored?

The storage duration of frozen eggs is a critical aspect of oocyte cryopreservation. Eggs can be stored for an extended period, and many clinics and facilities have reported successful pregnancies using eggs that were frozen for up to a decade or even longer. The success of the procedure largely depends on the quality of the eggs at the time of freezing, the efficiency of the freezing technique (vitrification), and the conditions of storage. Properly frozen and stored eggs remain viable for a considerable time, allowing individuals to plan their family-building journey with flexibility.

 

How Much Does Oocyte Cryopreservation/Egg Freezing Cost in India?

The cost of oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, in India, can vary widely depending on several factors, including the clinic’s reputation, location, the number of eggs being frozen, and the associated services included in the package. On average, the cost of a full cycle of egg freezing in India can range from ₹80,000 to ₹150,000 or even more. This cost typically includes consultations, hormonal stimulation medications, egg retrieval, the vitrification process, and initial storage for a certain period. Additional costs may be incurred for storage beyond the initial period, as well as for subsequent steps such as fertilization and embryo transfer.

 

Egg Freezing vs. Embryo Freezing: Which is Better?

The decision between egg freezing and embryo freezing depends on individual circumstances and reproductive goals. Both options have their advantages and considerations:

Egg Freezing:

  • Flexibility: Egg freezing provides women with the flexibility to postpone parenthood while preserving their fertility. This is especially useful for women who may not have a partner yet or want to delay pregnancy for other reasons.
  • Autonomy: Egg freezing allows individuals to make decisions about their reproductive future independently, without the immediate involvement of a partner.
  • Genetic Screening: Frozen eggs can be genetically screened before fertilization, allowing for the selection of embryos with a lower risk of genetic disorders.

Embryo Freezing:

  • Partner Involvement: Embryo freezing requires fertilization with sperm, making it suitable for couples. It involves partner involvement in the decision-making process.
  • Higher Success Rates: Embryo freezing typically has higher success rates compared to egg freezing, as the embryos have already undergone fertilization and initial development.
  • Genetic Testing: Embryos can also be genetically tested, enabling the selection of embryos with desired genetic traits and reducing the risk of inherited disorders.

the choice between egg freezing and embryo freezing depends on individual preferences, relationship status, and reproductive goals. Egg freezing offers more flexibility and autonomy for women who wish to preserve their fertility for future use, while embryo freezing might be more suitable for couples seeking to build a family immediately.

 

F.A.Q

Q: What is the duration of oocyte cryopreservation?

A: Oocyte cryopreservation, also known as egg freezing, typically involves a process that spans a few weeks. It includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and freezing.

Q: What is the ideal age for oocyte cryopreservation?

A: The ideal age for oocyte cryopreservation is usually in the late 20s to early 30s. At this time, egg quality and quantity are relatively higher, leading to better chances of success during the freezing process.

Q: What is the principle of oocyte cryopreservation?

A: Oocyte cryopreservation involves carefully cooling and preserving unfertilized eggs at very low temperatures using techniques such as vitrification. This helps to safeguard the eggs’ integrity, allowing them to be stored for later use in assisted reproductive treatments.

Q: What is the success rate of oocyte freezing?

A: The success rate of oocyte freezing can vary based on factors like the woman’s age at freezing, the quality of the eggs, and the clinic’s expertise. Generally, higher success rates are observed when eggs are frozen at a younger age.

Q: At what stage is the oocyte frozen?

A: Oocytes are frozen at a specific developmental stage known as the metaphase II (MII) stage. This is when the egg is mature and ready for fertilization.

Q: Is oocyte cryopreservation expensive?

A: Yes, oocyte cryopreservation can be relatively expensive. The cost includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, freezing, and storage. Prices vary by location and clinic.

Q: Is it better to freeze oocytes or embryos?

A: Whether to freeze oocytes or embryos depends on individual circumstances. Freezing embryos generally has higher success rates, but this option requires a partner or donor sperm. Freezing oocytes is suitable for women without a sperm source or specific religious or ethical considerations.

Q: How long does oocyte maturation take?

A: Oocyte maturation is a natural process that occurs over several months within a woman’s ovaries. However, the maturation process for the purpose of egg freezing is typically synchronized and accelerated through hormonal stimulation, taking about 10 to 14 days.

Appointment By Prior Booking only

    Dr Mona Dahiya

    Dr Mona Dahiya

    IVF Specialist & Consultant

    Dr Mona Dahiya has performed over 5,000+ IVF cycles and is considered a global expert in IVF, ICSI, IUI and male fertility treatment. She is an eminent writer on Infertility Treatment and has over 100 Publications in both International and National Journals. Dr Mona Dahiya has immensely contributed to the field of infertility through her Research and articles.