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Written in Partnership with Dr. Ernest Zeringue, California IVF Fertility Center
Egg freezing offers the opportunity to preserve a woman’s fertility for a variety of reasons. A woman who wishes to delay child bearing until a later time in life may elect to freeze eggs so the impact of age no longer continues to lower her chances of having a baby. Women facing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation may also wish to freeze eggs; the toxic effects of these treatments can render her incapable of producing healthy eggs.
Egg freezing has been evolving over the last several years. According to Dr. Ernest Zeringue, infertility specialist and founder of California IVF Fertility Center, “Due to our unique methods of testing and fine tuning our cryopreservation (freezing) techniques we have been able to freeze and thaw eggs with the same rate of blastocyst development as our fresh eggs.”
“From our own experience we found that the commonly used techniques were not resulting in successful outcomes,” Zeringue says. “Problems were seen with survival of the oocytes, fertilization, embryo development and early pregnancy losses. Since optimizing our vitrification and warming technique, the success rates for embryo development, implantation, and ongoing pregnancy rival those of our fresh transfers.”
Age and Successful Egg Freezing
“Age is a major hurdle to success with egg freezing,” Zeringue says. “It’s really important to understand how the genetics of the eggs change with time, and consult with your physician to decide on a target number of eggs to freeze.” For women under the age of 35 freezing 10 to 15 eggs is advisable, while women over the age of 35 should plan to freeze as many eggs as feasible. “With advanced genetic testing of embryos we have seen that women ages 38 to 40 may not have a genetically normal embryo despite having 10 to 12 embryos that are tested,” he adds. The rate of success can be estimated from a woman’s age at the time of the egg collection, regardless of when she returns to use the eggs.
Egg Freezing is Not a Guarantee
There are two factors to consider with egg freezing, Zeringue says. One, a woman’s age; egg quality diminishes with age. “Even a perfect freezing and thawing technique cannot correct genetic mistakes in the eggs and subsequent embryos,” he explains. The other thing to consider is the program that is freezing and thawing the eggs. “Many programs are now offering egg freezing but very few of them have actual success with their program.”
Questions to Ask
If you are going to freeze your eggs, it is important to get information about the egg freezing program, confirming they have reasonable success. Otherwise you may be freezing eggs that do not have a good chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy. Questions to ask a fertility practice include:
- Do you use vitrification?
- Have you had ongoing pregnancies and deliveries with frozen eggs?
- Am I a good egg freezing candidate?
- How many eggs should I freeze?
- How much does egg freezing cost?