Egg Freezing - today's approach to family planning
Modern procedures in medically assisted reproduction offer women the chance to freely decide on the safe freezing and “storage” of some of their oocytes as a means of preserving their fertility. There are various motives why women may want to consider fertility preservation. The reasons for this, on the one hand, may be attributed to sociological factors, and, on the other hand to medical reasons. Egg freezing may help women in a variety of situations to preserve their fertility potential. Thanks to their cryopreserved oocytes, they have the possibility to postpone a wanted pregnancy to a later point in life.
1. "Who can benefit from egg freezing?"
Human oocyte cryopreservation may be used to preserve female fertility, for example, in the following situations:
- Women who have not yet met the right partner and/or wish to delay starting a family, e.g. until they have fulfilled their educational aspirations and launched their careers etc.
- Women who are exposed to high levels of environmental pollution, which may compromise the quality of their oocytes. The increased risk of exposure can arise from: frequent long-haul flights, working with chemical substances, tar and paints, X-rays, working in places where smoking is still allowed etc.
- Following a surgical procedure involving the removal of parts of the ovary (ovarian cyst removal, removal of endometriosis scarring and lesions etc.)
- Given a family history (predisposition) of: premature menopause (premature ovarian failure = POF)
- Women about to undergo chemotherapy/radiotherapy as a part of cancer treatment. Such treatments may not only kill cancer cells but also egg cells.
2. Treatment procedure
Stimulation phaseTargeted hormonal treatment stimulates the growth of multiple follicles in the ovaries. Follicle growth is closely monitored by ultrasound in order to determine the optimum time for egg collection. (See "stimulation"). NOTE: In order to avoid any unplanned pregnancy, the patient is required to abstain from unprotected intercourse from the beginning of stimulation up to her next menstrual bleeding.
Egg collectionTransvaginal ultrasound-guided follicular aspiration (follicular puncture) is used to retrieve the oocytes from the ovaries. This short intervention is mostly performed with the patient in a sleep-like state (sedoanalgesia).
Cryopreservation of the oocytesUsing aseptic vitrification, the oocytes obtained are frozen inside a closed carrier device at -196° C. Subsequently, the carrier can be safely stored in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen (Learn more)
Thawing and fertilizationIf, owing to the medical situation of the couple, fertility treatment should become necessary to conceive a pregnancy, the frozen eggs are subjected to thawing and subsequent insemination with the partner's sperm in the IVF laboratory (See "Artificial Insemination").
3. Chances of a future pregnancy
The best time for fertility preservation / "social freezing" is when the woman is between the ages of 20 and 30 years, since this is when a female's fertility peaks. The results of a study (presented at the ESHRE annual meeting, 2014) have shown that, on average, 17-20 cryopreserved oocytes result in the live birth of one child conceived through IVF.
4. Safety is the primary objective
Each treatment at our IVF centers is based not only on compliance with legal regulations but also on ethical and medical principles, with the main focus being placed on patient welfare and the health and safety of all parties involved. This is why, at the beginning of each fertility preservation treatment, there has to be a personal discussion with the doctor. Among other things, this includes well-founded information on the current legal situation, the chances of success, the costs, the treatment course and the potential risks as regards the envisaged therapy.
When the treatment has been completed and the oocytes have been successfully collected and frozen, they are kept in storage (for a limited period in accordance with the statutory provisions) at our premises under very strict safety precautions.
Our reproductive cells are some of the most sensitive cells in the body. Unhealhty lifestyle patterns, environmental toxins, diseases or genetic disorders can be damaging to them. It is therefore all the more important to have at our disposal cutting-edge medical technology, such as fertility preservation by egg freezing.
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