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Frozen Egg Banks Offer Another Choice for Egg Donation
Because of advances in egg freezing technology, donor egg banks, similar to sperm banks, have been developed over the last few years.
In the past, the survival of eggs following the older, slow-freezing technique was very low, as were pregnancy rates, often due to damage to the egg cells caused by ice crystal formation during the freezing process. Today, vitrification of eggs involves a new flash-freezing technique where the delicate egg, once unfreezable without damage, can now be safely preserved for future use. In the process of vitrification, an oocyte is placed in a small volume of the vitrification medium and is then cooled at an extremely rapid rate. This fast freezing eliminates the formation of ice crystals in the eggs. Following this freeze, the egg is stored in liquid nitrogen until such time as it is to be thawed and fertilized by a sperm.
Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI) is one of a handful of large, successful IVF programs in different regions of the country that make up Donor Egg Bank USA.
What is frozen egg banking? Just like with sperm banking, egg donors are carefully selected and screened physically and mentally. The donor then undergoes a process similar to that of someone going through an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. The ovaries are stimulated, and eggs are retrieved and then frozen in a fast-freezing process called vitrification.
What are the advantages to a frozen egg bank cycle?
In past years, I have had a few of my recipient patients have to go through three or more fresh egg donors who ended up canceling for a variety of reasons medical and personal reasons. You can imagine how frustrating that can be! Frozen egg banking offers another solution, and there are several advantages:
- Choosing to transfer embryos from frozen eggs from a bank means the donor has already been screened and accepted; in a fresh egg donation cycle, the donor may not qualify to donate during the screening process.
- The egg donor recipient’s IVF cycle is less complex because the menstrual cycle of the donor and the recipient do not have to be synchronized so that the recipient’s uterus is prepared for the embryo. The cycle synchronization is one of the more challenging aspects of egg donation with fresh eggs.
- The egg donor and egg recipient can each complete their cycles when they are ready and it is convenient for them.
- The egg donor recipient can have a frozen egg cycle more quickly, usually within one to two months, vs. a fresh egg cycle, which typically takes three to 12 months depending on donor availability, screening and cycle synchronization.
- The cost of a frozen egg cycle is typically 30 percent to 50 percent less than the cost of fresh egg cycle. If the frozen donor egg recipient shares with another recipient, the cost may reduced by another 30 percent.
What are the disadvantages of frozen egg bank cycle? While fresh egg donation cycles have been performed for 28 years, frozen egg banking is a newer development in assisted reproductive technology. At FCI, as part of the Donor Egg Bank USA, we are just now starting to use the frozen donor eggs that have been collected over the past year; therefore we don’t have as much data on success of the process as we would like. In addition, there may be fewer eggs available via frozen egg banking. In a fresh cycle, the number of eggs can range from four to 30; in a frozen egg cycle, there are generally five to eight eggs, and the chances of having any extra embryos for freezing are lower.
If you are a candidate for egg donation, talk to your fertility doctor about the possibility of using a frozen donor egg from a donor egg bank. It may be the right choice for you.