Oocyte cryopreservation is aimed at three particular groups of women:
- Those diagnosed with cancer who have not yet begun chemotherapy or radiotherapy;
- Those undergoing treatment with assisted reproductive technologies who do not consider embryo freezing an option
- And those who would like to preserve their future ability to have children, either because they do not yet have a partner, or for other personal or medical reasons.
Hundreds of thousands of women in the reproductive-age women are diagnosed with cancer each year all over the world.Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are toxic for oocytes, leaving few, if any, viable eggs. Egg freezing offers women with cancer the chance to preserve their eggs so that they can have children in the future.
Oocyte cryopreservation is an option for individuals undergoing IVF who object, either for religious or ethical reasons, to the practice of freezing embryos. Having the option to fertilize only as many eggs as will be utilized in the IVF process, and then freeze any remaining unfertilized eggs can be a solution. In this way, there are no excess embryos created, and there need be no disposition of unused frozen embryos, a practice which can create complex choices for certain individuals.
Egg freezing is also an option for women who, for the purpose of education, career or other reasons, desire to postpone childbearing. Some top Corporates such as Google and facebook have now come forward and offered egg freezing options for their workforce as it may ensure a chance for a future pregnancy.
Additionally, women with a family history of early menopause have an interest in fertility preservation. With egg freezing, they will have a frozen store of eggs, in the likelihood that their eggs are depleted at an early age.
The egg retrieval process for oocyte cryopreservation is the same as that for in vitro fertilization. This includes two weeks of hormone injections that stimulate ovaries to ripen multiple eggs. When the eggs are mature, final maturation induction is performed, by using human chorionic gonadotrophin
The eggs are subsequently removed from the body by transvaginal oocyte retrieval. The procedure is usually conducted under general Anaesthesia. The eggs are immediately frozen.
Eggs (oocytes) are frozen using vitrification. Vitrification is much faster but requires higher concentrations of cryoprotectants to be added. The result of vitrification is a solid glass-like cell, free of ice crystals. Vitrification is associated with higher survival rates and better development compared to slow-cooling when applied to oocytes in metaphase II (MII).
When you are ready for pregnancy and wish to use the eggs for fertilization then the Embryologist will thaw the eggs and fertilise with the sperm from the male partner and the embryos will be grown in an incubator for 5 days and transferred at Blastocyst stage
The positive pregnancy rates with frozen eggs are slightly lower than frozen embryos
studies showed that the rate of birth defects and chromosomal defects when using cryopreserved oocytes is consistent with that of natural conception
Recent modifications in protocol regarding cryoprotectant composition, temperature and storage methods have had a large impact on the technology and has very rapidly transformed it from an experimental procedure to a fairly widely used option by women.
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