Egg Freezing/Cryopreservation

Egg freezing can preserve female fertility

Age negatively impacts female fertility, with a sharp decline in egg quantity and quality seen at approximately age 35. Many women are not ready to build a family during their peak reproductive potential. Egg freezing allows women to preserve their eggs and use them later on in life when they may have more trouble conceiving.

In addition, women over 35 have an increased risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities in their children as a result of age-dependent changes in egg quality. Therefore, the best age to preserve eggs is between the age of 30 and 40 and optimally before the age of 35. When a woman uses her frozen eggs, even if a number of years have passed, both the pregnancy rates and the incidence of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities is based on the age of the woman when the eggs were frozen, not her age when she uses the eggs.

There are a number of reasons women choose to freeze their eggs, including:

  • Choosing to delay childbearing for personal reasons
  • Scheduled chemotherapy or radiation therapy for oncology treatment – please see our Oncofertility page for more information on egg preservation for patients with a cancer diagnosis
  • Needing to delay childbearing due to certain medical conditions

It is important to know that egg freezing does not take away from your future ovarian reserve. Fertility preservation works by utilizing the eggs that would have otherwise been discarded by the ovaries during a particular cycle.

Cutting-edge technology available at the Fertility Institute of Hawaii

Vitrification, or ‘fast freezing,’ uses a cell culture system that protects eggs from injury during egg freezing. This technology enables us to freeze mature eggs while eliminating the risk of damaging ice crystal formation within the egg. By applying new advances in cryopreservation, many groups, including our own, have realized a sharp increase in survival rates of eggs once thawed (over 90%). Improvements in egg freezing technology have led to excellent success rates, especially in women who froze eggs under the age of 35.

How does egg freezing work?

Step 1. Consultation

Prior to starting a treatment cycle, you will complete a consultation with one of our physicians to discuss the process, review your medical history, and make sure you are a good candidate egg preservation. An initial work up will be done to assess your ovarian reserve and typically includes:

  1. Antimullerian Hormone level (blood test to assess ovarian reserve))
  2. Ultrasound (to visually assess the ovaries)
  3. Additional hormone testing (blood test)

These tests will help your physician come up with a treatment protocol that is tailored to you, and determine how much medication will be required.

Step 2. Ovarian Stimulation

An egg freezing cycle can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle when you are ready to begin treatment. Your physician may recommend the use of oral contraceptive pills at the start of your treatment; however, protocols without the use of birth control may also be considered. The ovaries will then be stimulated using gonadotropins which are hormones identical to what your brain produces naturally, but given by way of a subcutaneous injection in the abdomen.

You will be taught how to self-administer injections at home, which are done for ~10 days.
After beginning the injections, you will be seen back in office every 2-3 days for ultrasounds and blood work to monitor your response to the hormone injections.

Once the eggs are ready for retrieval, a trigger injection will be given to prepare your follicles (fluid filled ovarian cysts containing eggs) for retrieval.

Step 3. Egg Retrieval

The egg retrieval procedure is performed in our OR suite that is located in the same office as our Honolulu clinic. You will undergo anesthesia and the procedure will take ~30 minutes. On average most patients are in the office for 3 hours that day (including surgery prep and recovery) and are ready to be discharged home ~1 hour following the procedure. Downtime will include the day of the procedure, and most individuals are able to return to the normal activities within a few days. You may have some light spotting, bleeding and/or period like cramping, but most patients are able to go back to their normal activities (including work) the following day.

Step 4. Egg Freezing

Retrieved eggs are cryopreserved the same day as the retrieval and stored in liquid nitrogen until ready for use. The amount of time you keep your eggs cryopreserved is completely up to you as eggs can be kept frozen indefinitely.If you are interested in undergoing fertility treatment at the Fertility Institute of Hawaii, or if you would like to learn more about it, the first step is to schedule a consultation. 

Find out more about fertility preservation at the Fertility Institute of Hawaii

Whether you wish to freeze your eggs for a medical or personal indication, the physicians at the Fertility Institute of Hawaii can answer your questions and guide you through the process. For more information concerning fertility preservation options, please contact our office at 808-545-2800.

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