Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, is a method used to save women's ability to get pregnant in the future.
Eggs harvested from your ovaries are frozen unfertilized and stored for later use. A frozen egg can be thawed, combined with sperm in a lab and implanted in your uterus (in vitro fertilization).
Your doctor can help you understand how egg freezing works, the potential risks and whether this method of fertility preservation is right for you based on your needs and reproductive history.
Egg freezing might be an option if you're not ready to become pregnant now but want to try to make sure you can get pregnant later.
Unlike with fertilized egg freezing (embryo cryopreservation), egg freezing doesn't require sperm because the eggs aren't fertilized before they're frozen. Just as with embryo freezing, however, you'll need to use fertility drugs to make you ovulate so that you'll produce multiple eggs for retrieval.
You might consider egg freezing if:
You can use your frozen eggs to try to conceive a child with sperm from a partner or a sperm donor. A donor can be known or anonymous. The embryo can also be implanted in the uterus of another person to carry the pregnancy (gestational carrier).
After the procedure
Typically, you can resume normal activities within a week of egg retrieval. Avoid unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
Contact your health care provider if you have:
When you want to use your frozen eggs, they'll be thawed, fertilized with sperm in a lab, and implanted in your or a gestational carrier's uterus.
Your health care team might recommend using a fertilization technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In ICSI, a single healthy sperm is injected directly into each mature egg.
The chances of becoming pregnant after implantation are roughly 30 to 60 percent, depending on your age at the time of egg freezing. The older you are at the time of egg freezing, the lower the likelihood that you'll have a live birth in the future.
Egg or embryo donation is when a donor gives their eggs, or a couple donates their embryo, to help couples who otherwise wouldn't be able to conceive become parents.
Egg or embryo donation allows women who cannot conceive using their own eggs, become pregnant.
If an egg donation is used, the donated egg can be fertilised with your spouse’s sperm in a laboratory dish. The resulting embryos can then be transferred to your uterus (womb).
Embryo donation is an option if you and your spouse require both egg and sperm donation. Embryos are usually donated by couples who have successfully had their baby or babies from IVF and who want to help other couples become parents. Donors give their eggs or embryos to the fertility hospital or clinic. Some may give eggs and embryos voluntarily for free while others are paid for their donations.
There are often waiting lists at clinics for this form of treatment because there is a shortage of people willing to donate. Egg donors are screened for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and some genetic conditions, before they are recruited. It is recommended that donors are under 36 years.They answer a detailed questionnaire about their background, medical, family and personal history. They are then seen by a doctor and undergo a thorough physical examination with a reproductive endocrinologist and a blood test.
Donors are matched as closely as possible with the recipient couple for characteristics such as hair colour, eye colour and if possible even occupation and interests. This is one of the main reasons why many couples prefer using eggs or embryos donated by relatives (preferably the woman’s sister or another female relative not from the husband’s side). That way the baby is a close genetic match.
As for embryo donors, IVF sometimes produces extra embryos which may be used if a first treatment cycle fails, or if a couple wants to have more children in the future. These embryos are usually kept in storage for up to 10 years. Sometimes couples decide that they don’t want to attempt to have more children, and agree to donate the embryos to another couple.
The advantages of using an egg or embryo donation to get pregnant or have a child are that:
You can get pregnant and deliver a baby that is genetically your husband's if not your own.
The success rates for donor egg and embryo IVF can be higher than with regular IVF because the eggs or embryos are donated by young donors.
It might be the only way for you to have a child if you are older than 45 years. Older couples find it difficult to adopt since preference is usually given to younger couples.