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Freezing Eggs in Tampa
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, has been around for several decades; however, it was not very successful until recently. With conventional egg freezing, ice crystals would develop in the eggs. A newer process called "vitrification" has solved the problem of ice crystal formation by cooling at an extremely rapid rate.
Today, egg freezing offers hope to women in Tampa facing some types of cancer and/or cancer treatment that may damage their eggs or destroy ovarian function, as well as those who have not found the right partner or who have delayed having children for various reasons. In addition, egg freezing offers an option to Tampa women who’ve produced extra eggs for an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle but don’t want to destroy or donate their unused eggs to research.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Egg Freezing?
According to Sandy B. Goodman, M.D., a fertility doctor with The Reproductive Medicine Group, in Tampa, FL, there are several different candidates for egg freezing:
- Women ages 34-40 who do not have a partner or for other personal or medical reasons need to delay child bearing and wish to preserve their chances of having a biologic child.
- Women diagnosed with cancer who will require chemotherapy or other treatment that could damage the eggs.
- Women with certain non-cancerous disorders who face potential sterility associated with their disease. "Removal of both ovaries performed to treat a benign tumor or conditions such as endometriosis can result in decreased fertility or in sterility," says Dr. Goodman. "Women who test positive for the BRCA gene or who have a strong family history of ovarian cancer may elect to undergo prophylactic removal of the ovaries. Women with autoimmune diseases may be exposed to medications that are toxic to the oocyte or may experience premature (early) menopause."
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) does warn that “oocyte cryopreservation … remains an experimental procedure that should not be offered or marketed as a means to defer reproductive aging.” ASRM recommends that women exploring egg freezing should set up consultations at a Tampa fertility clinic and ask about treatment options, oocyte freezing methods, success rates and policies about disposing unused eggs.
The Process of Freezing Your Eggs
To freeze eggs, fertility doctors stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce a half dozen eggs (more than the regular one egg per cycle), with fertility drugs. "Oocyte cryopreservation requires retrieval of the eggs from the ovaries in the same manner as is performed for in vitro fertilization (IVF)," Dr. Goodman explains. "Fertility drugs are utilized to stimulate the development of multiple eggs within the ovaries. These medications are administered by subcutaneous (under the skin) injections for approximately two weeks to allow the eggs to reach maturity. Serial transvaginal ultrasounds (sonograms) and blood work are utilized to assess the development of the eggs."
Fertility doctors then harvest these eggs from the ovaries and freeze them for later use. "When the tests suggest that a reasonable group of eggs are likely to be mature, a final injection medication is given, and then, 36 hours later, the woman receives sedation, and the eggs are removed from the ovaries by placing a needle through the vaginal wall into each ovary using ultrasound guidance," Dr. Goodman says. "The eggs are then frozen."
A woman’s egg quality peaks between 16 to 28 years old during her reproductive prime. Eggs can still be acceptable from age 29 to 38 (the mid-reproductive years), but their quality diminishes greatly from age 39 to 44.
Success Rates of Freezing Eggs
Although embryos (fertilized eggs) and sperm have been successfully frozen and thawed to create healthy babies for several decades, only recently has egg freezing been successful. Previously, the only method that could be used to freeze eggs was a slow-freezing method, which could cause ice crystals to form within the egg. A newer specialized freezing technique called vitrification freezes the egg so quickly that ice crystals don't have time to form.
The cost of oocyte cryopreservation is similar to the cost of an IVF cycle, according to Dr. Goodman. "Generally, an annual fee is charged for storage of the cryopreserved oocytes after the first year, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is required to fertilize the thawed oocytes," she says.
Egg Freezing in Tampa
The Reproductive Medicine Group was one of the first fertility clinics in Tampa, FL, to offer the latest egg freezing technology. In addition, the University of South Florida IVF offers fertility preservation for a woman undergoing treatment for cancer. The eggs can also be fertilized before they are frozen and transferred to her uterus at a later time.