Women choose to freeze their eggs for various reasons. For many, a focus on education and career delays childbearing. Illness may be another reason. Yet another may be a concern that their fertility will decline before they are ready to become mothers. The “right time” for a woman to become pregnant does not always align with her biological clock.
Although the decline in reproductive potential that occurs with age cannot be reversed, freezing your eggs at a younger age may allow the eggs to be preserved until you are ready to conceive. While there are no guarantees, using cryopreserved eggs may improve your chances for pregnancy in the future. Our Egg Banking Calculator can help you determine egg freezing’s potential benefit to you. UNC Fertility is pleased to provide the most successful technique available, egg vitrification, also known as ‘rapid freezing,’ to our patients.
Overview of the Process
The egg freezing process involves daily injections, approximately 5 office visits and minor outpatient surgery.
- Ovarian stimulation and monitoring: Hormonal treatment in the form of injections is given for approximately eight to 12 days, stimulating your ovaries to produce multiple mature follicles/eggs.
- Egg retrieval: Eggs are retrieved from your ovaries through an ultrasound-guided follicle aspiration. Sedation is part of this procedure.
- Egg vitrification: Your eggs are then placed in a “vitrification solution” called cryoprotectant, which helps protect them during the freezing and thawing process. Each egg is carefully placed into liquid nitrogen and stored frozen at a temperature of -196 ̊ Celsius.
- Egg storage: Your eggs will remain frozen in a liquid nitrogen storage tank until you are ready to try to conceive.
- Uterine preparation: Once you are ready to try to conceive, a short course of hormone treatment will prepare your uterine lining for implantation.
- Egg thawing: Your eggs will be thawed to room temperature in cryoprotectant.
- Fertilization: Each egg is then fertilized in our lab through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), injecting a single sperm into each egg. ICSI maximizes the chances of successfully fertilizing each egg.Eggs can be fertilized with sperm from a male partner, or from donor sperm (when applicable).
- Embryo culture and transfer: After your embryo(s) grow in the lab for three to five days, one or more (depending on the clinical scenario) embryo(s) will be chosen to transfer into the uterus. If there are extra embryos, they could be frozen for future use.