More Than A One-Egg Show
There’s a reason why egg freezing is becoming more and more popular. In 2012, egg freezing was declared no longer experimental, making the process more accessible to women. Also known as oocyte cryopreservation, the method freezes unfertilized eggs for future use. Anyone thinking about egg freezing should know the ins and outs of the procedure. More importantly, several eggs are needed for a successful future pregnancy using in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Why freeze your eggs?
One of the most significant advantages of oocyte cryopreservation is delaying pregnancy. Some women are career-focused. Others don’t meet someone until age 35 or beyond. Freezing healthy eggs improves the success of pregnancy in later years. In some cases, there may be a condition, disease, or treatment that affects fertility. Egg freezing allows women to have a healthy baby after recovery. Finally, the procedure also helps with future cycles of IVF if the other cycles fail.
Here’s why you need as many as possible
There’s a reason why doctors once considered egg freezing as experimental. A clinic or reproductive endocrinologist cannot extract one egg only. Furthermore, the quality of the eggs can vary. Some eggs may not survive the thawing process or be viable during fertilization. And those that do may not go to a full-term pregnancy. Others may need several cycles of IVF. That’s why the clinic needs as many eggs as possible to ensure success.
The egg freezing process
Egg freezing starts with finding the best clinic or doctor based on service, success rates, and price. From there, the doctor will perform an ovarian reserve test and blood test. All women are born with a set number of eggs. A reserve test gives the doctor an estimate of how many eggs are left. From there, the doctor will provide hormone medication to make as many eggs as possible. About 14 days after taking the medication, the eggs may be ready for removal.
Extraction and cryopreservation
Removing the eggs is a simple, outpatient procedure. The woman will be sedated, and the doctor will use an ultrasound device to see the ovaries. Using a small needle through the vagina, the doctor will gently remove the follicles. From there, the clinic uses cryopreservation to freeze the eggs. This process ensures the eggs remain safe. The number of follicles extracted depends on the available eggs and the woman’s general health.
How much is enough?
Extracting one egg is not enough for a successful future pregnancy. What’s difficult, however, is knowing how many eggs a woman will need to guarantee success. One thing’s for sure, the more, the merrier. The more frozen eggs a woman has available, the greater the chances of uncovering a healthy, mature egg. To achieve this, some women may have to go through more than one cycle of egg freezing.
Youth and egg freezing
The age of the woman is one of the most essential factors in determining success rates. Younger women have the advantage of having both a higher egg reserve and egg quality. Women under 35, for instance, can extract up to 15 eggs per cycle. Research shows that women 35 and younger had an up to 80% live birth rate with 15 or more eggs. As little as 9 eggs can yield a 60% success rate, while 40 has a 99% chance of birth.
Older women need more eggs
Women over the age of 35 have lower reserves and quality, so more eggs are needed for a higher success rate. Extracting more eggs takes significantly more cycles, which can be costly. Women between 35-40 yield about 10 eggs per cycle, while 40 and above, only 7 in total. The same study shows that women over 40 need at least 20 eggs for a 50% success rate. As much as 80 eggs bring the likelihood of a guaranteed live birth over age 40.
Knowing the numbers
Egg freezing continues to grow in research and interest. Although the process is becoming more accessible, pregnancy rates with fresh eggs have higher success rates. Unsurprisingly, younger women with healthy ovarian reserves need to extract fewer eggs. In just one cycle, there is up to an 80% chance for women under 35. Older women need significantly more eggs to guarantee success. Speak with a fertility specialist or clinic for the next best steps for future egg preservation.