Human egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) marketed as another way of preserving fertility. The procedure is fairly new and quite controversial. It involves collecting mature eggs just like in the process of in vitro fertilization and adding a protective solution called a cryoprotectant followed by freezing the eggs either slowly or fast. There are many reasons why women choose to freeze their eggs for later fertilization. The time the eggs can be stored is currently not known but according to researchers, it could be up to 20 years and even longer. In this article, we explain everything there is to know about human egg freezing and the safety of longer storage of eggs.
About Egg Freezing
Human egg freezing is a process in which a woman’s eggs are extracted, frozen, and stored for later use. When a woman is ready to get pregnant, the frozen egg is thawed, fertilized, and implanted in the uterus as an embryo. There are many reasons why women would want to freeze their eggs. The first reason also called medical egg freezing would be to preserve eggs when facing challenges to her fertility problems due to cancer treatments or certain medical conditions. Another reason is when a woman wants to preserve healthy eggs until she is ready to get pregnant later in life and this is called social egg freezing. Some women might want to delay pregnancy because work pressure and a lack of secure relationships may make parenthood too difficult at the present moment. The success rate of this method of ART is not very well known because of the relatively few babies conceived through this method when compared to other methods.
Is this Method Safe?
Human egg freezing is generally considered safe as 900 babies conceived through this method do not show an increased rate of congenital abnormalities according to the Oncofertility Consortium. However, better success rates were observed in embryo freezing than in egg freezing. Luckily, a newer method of egg freezing called the vitrification process is showing a rise in success rates among human egg freezing samples. There are no reports of any health hazards for women using this method of egg preservation and fertilization so far. If you have any concerns regarding this procedure, talk to your clinic about your concerns and questions.
Storage of Human Eggs
The standard storage time for human eggs is currently 10 years although it is possible to extend this period under certain circumstances. The storage time does not change the quality of the frozen eggs and gene expression according to a recent study published in Human Reproduction. Furthermore, according to an article published in EggBanxx, a frozen embryo transfer has been successful even after 20 years of storage illustrating the stability of frozen embryos and probably frozen eggs. Jamie A. Grifo, M.D., Ph.D. of the NYU Fertility Center believes that the same success of embryos frozen for a long time should prove to be the same for frozen eggs. This might explain why recent changes in U.K. laws allow for embryo freezing of more than 55 years. But we need to keep in mind that there are certain limitations to when you can carry a baby. Having a baby at an older age presents major challenges to the parent and child and these also needs to be taken into consideration with egg freezing.
Controversy Regarding Egg Freezing
Certain health experts and social critics see egg freezing as a means to distract people from the social challenges to parenthood. While so-called medical reasons for egg freezing are not as controversial, the social egg freezing is considered a complicated subject. Many women delay parenthood due to career pressures or problems with finding a partner. As pointed out in one article on this topic, social egg freezing is subjected to misuse and serve as a means for preserving the dysfunctional social challenges young families face. The same article suggests societies should make it easier for women to balance parenthood and career choices instead of forcing them to postpone parenthood for the sake of preserving a career.
The time a human egg is stored does not affect the success of the following pregnancy or cause any congenital abnormalities or affect the egg whatsoever. However, not all eggs will survive the freezing process. Those that do survive are mostly healthy and result in normal gene expression. Although egg freezing is considered another way women are taking charge of their fertility, they mask the social problem many women today are facing. Parenthood and family life may become difficult to balance with work responsibilities. However, freezing eggs might not be the answer to this rising problem. But nevertheless, this method is a good option for women who might face infertility issues due to medical reasons.