I recently had the privilege of taking care of a wonderful young woman who was diagnosed with cancer and consulted me regarding egg freezing to preserve her fertility prior to chemotherapy. We were able to start an egg freezing cycle right away and obtained a good amount of eggs to preserve this young woman’s fertility.
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is becoming quite common and is not only indicated for patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, which might potentially harm the ovaries, but is now done for a variety of reasons. Since there is a progressive loss of egg quality and quantity with female aging, which is accelerated in patients over 35 years old, the most common reason to freeze eggs is simply to preserve fertility in those women who have decided to delay childbearing due to either a demanding career or due to not having found the right partner yet with whom to embark on the journey of becoming parents.
In addition, oocyte cryopreservation is also a good option for patients, who due to religious or ethical reasons, do not want to cryopreserve embryos or who during an IVF cycle were not able to collect sperm from the partner to fertilize the eggs obtained during an egg retrieval.
In 1986, the first baby was born from a cryopreserved egg but historically the success of having a live birth from a cryopreserved egg was low. Only recently, particularly with the advent of oocyte vitrification (a rapid freeze method), has egg survival and fertilization after freezing and then thawing improved significantly. In fact, there is now good evidence that fertilization and pregnancy rates with frozen/thawed eggs are similar to those of fresh eggs in IVF cycles in young patients. However, just like with fresh oocytes, success rates with cryopreserved eggs decrease with increasing female age. So the younger the women is at the time of egg freezing the greater the success rate to conceive a pregnancy with a cryopreserved egg.
Reference: Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline. Fertility & Sterility,
Vol. 99. 2013.