More about Understanding Egg Supply:
A woman is born with one to two million immature oocytes (eggs) in her ovaries. By the time she hits puberty, that number has reduced to about 400,000. With each ovulation period or menstrual cycle, roughly 1,000 oocytes are recruited, however out of that group (cohort) only one dominant follicle will mature and subsequently be released into the fallopian tubes for possible fertilization. Of all the immature eggs a woman is born with, roughly only 400 will reach maturation in a lifetime.
As women age, the quantity and quality of the egg supply decreases. No two women are reproductively the same, and ovarian reserve may vary significantly between women the same age. The only similarity is that with time, for everyone woman, her ovarian reserve decreases.
In general, live birth rates decrease rapidly after age 35, due to diminishing pregnancy rates and increasing miscarriage rates. This will occur regardless of general health, weight, lifestyle, fitness level and diet, although it should be noted that cigarette consumption can accelerate egg loss and environmental, surgical/medical, and genetic factors will also play a role.
The great news is that women now have the option to freeze eggs and put their family plans on hold. While freezing eggs does not guarantee a baby in the future, science and technology have increased the chance that an egg will survive the thaw, fertilize and implant in the uterus for pregnancy success. Pregnancy rates using frozen eggs are now comparable to that of fresh (non-frozen) eggs.
The Egg Freezing Process
Testing and Evaluation
Ovarian reserve screens (blood tests and an ultrasound of the ovaries) are performed first to allow your physician to tailor your stimulation protocol and counsel you about your individualized success rates prior to the egg freezing process.
Preparing the Ovaries
To get the ovaries ‘in sync’ for the procedure, you may be placed on birth control pills for one month. This allows your physician to control the timing of your cycle, synchronize follicle (fluid filled cystic structure that usually contains an egg) growth, and decrease the prevalence of cyst production.
Ovarian stimulation medications are prescribed with the goal to safely stimulate the growth of multiple ovarian follicles. Injectable medication administered with a tiny needle in the abdomen will be required for an average of 8-14 days.
While on medication, monitoring via ultrasound will typically be required everyday or every other day in order to assess the size and growth of ovarian follicles and the thickness/appearance of the uterine lining. Blood work will also be required in order to monitor estrogen levels.
Once follicle growth and estrogen levels reach optimal values, the final step is a trigger shot. The trigger shot advances egg maturation so they are ready to be retrieved and cryopreserved.
Egg Retrieval Procedure
Approximately 36 hours after the trigger shot, the egg retrieval procedure will take place. During the 15-30 minute procedure, a patient is placed under sedation. Using ultrasound guidance, a needle is guided into each follicle and the eggs are aspirated and handed to the embryology lab.
The number of oocytes obtained will vary based in response to stimulation medication, ovarian reserve, age, and multiple other factors.
Some patients experience spotting, bloating, and mild discomfort after a retrieval. Most patients are fully recovered within one or two days.
Vitrification of Eggs
After the egg retrieval, the oocytes are cryopreserved by a process called vitrification. Utilizing this advanced method creates an immediate glass-like state with minimal ice crystal formation, increasing viability for future use. After vitrification, the oocytes are stored in a cryopreservation tank until they are used for treatment.
Egg Freezing Costs
More information about egg freezing costs can be found in the financial section.