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Considering Egg Or Embryo Freezing? Gynaecologist & Fertility Expert Dr Duru Shah Shares Some Interesting Facts

Considering Egg Or Embryo Freezing? Gynaecologist & Fertility Expert Dr Duru Shah Shares Some Interesting Facts

8 Jun 2022 | 5 min Read

Manisha Pradhan

Author | 71 Articles

More and more young women are opting to freeze their eggs or embryos today. But what does egg and embryo freezing mean? Egg freezing and embryo freezing are methods which are used for women to be able to get pregnant in the future.

Egg or embryo freezing is done by people to have babies at a later stage and it is also done for fertility preservation purposes. For instance, a woman with cancer would want to preserve her eggs before getting her chemotherapy and other treatments so that her ability to become pregnant does not get affected.

What Does Egg And Embryo Freezing Mean?

In simpler words it means, if you don’t plan to have a baby for a few more years till you feel you are ready to take care of the responsibilities that come with having children, then egg freezing or embryo freezing might be an option.

What Is The Difference Between Egg Freezing And Embryo Freezing?

While embryo freezing requires sperm, egg freezing is basically when a woman’s eggs are extracted and then frozen for future use. When a woman decides to get pregnant, the eggs are thawed in a lab and fertilized with sperm to create an embryo via IVF. Whereas in embryo freezing, the eggs are fertilized using IVF before they’re frozen.

According to Dr Duru Shah the reason for more and more young women, married or unmarried, are freezing their eggs is because:

  • They have not found the right partner to settle down with.
  • They want to continue with their careers and establish themselves, so they delay their marriage and pregnancy and hence freeze their eggs for later.
  • In the case of some couples, either the husband has a busy life and needs to travel a lot or the couple wants to delay having a child, they opt to freeze their embryo.

Dr Shah says, “Today most women are having kids at a much later age. Earlier women like our mothers and grandmothers had children at the age of 23-24 but that’s not the case anymore.Women are getting married only when they are over 23-24 today. They delay their pregnancy till they are around 40 and at 40 the chances of good eggs are very low.”

Egg freezing and embryo freezing are methods which are used for women to be able to get pregnant in the future / Image source: hopkinsmedicine.org

What Is The Best Age To Freeze Eggs?

According to Dr Duru Shah, the best age to freeze your eggs is maximum by 31-32 years of age. “It’s a good idea to freeze your eggs when you have healthy eggs, especially if you don’t intend to get married till you are 39 – 40 years old or haven’t found the right partner yet. If you are married then you can freeze your embryo.”

She also says that the main reasons for the poor quality of eggs in young women today are:

  • Smoking
  • Use of Tobacco
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Having multiple partners that cause reproductive infections

How Many Eggs Should A Woman Store?

Dr Shah recommends freezing at least 20 eggs. “At least 20 eggs, to have one good, healthy baby is the formula we follow. They have to go through the whole IVF process. We retrieve the eggs from them and if they are married we use the husband’s sperm to create the embryo,” adds Dr. Shah. 

Dr. Duru Shah further adds, “In cases where the husband is Thalassemia minor and wife too is thalassemia minor, we test the embryo first to check if the child is major or minor. If the child is a major we don’t save it.”

Smoking is one of the main reasons for the poor quality of eggs in young women / Image source: freepik.com

How To Prepare Yourself Before Freezing Embryo?

Before the cycle starts to retrieve the eggs to create embryos, your doctor will test your hormone levels. They will also perform an ultrasound to ensure your ovaries are ready for the process. After that, you are given injectable medications that stimulate your ovaries to grow multiple follicles in the area where eggs grow and can be easily harvested from. A fertility specialist carefully monitors and tracks your response to these medications.

What Are The Costs Involved?

Freezing embryos includes the costs to cover the initial hormone treatments. There is the egg harvesting process along with fertility. Plus the embryo culture, storage, freezing and implantation.

Usually they have to pay a one time fee for the process and then a yearly fee to store the eggs or the embryo in the clinic for a nominal sum.

Where And How Long Can Embryos Be Stored?

Usually, the frozen embryos are stored and monitored at a lab, in the hospital facilities, or a commercial reproductive medicine centre. These embryos can be preserved safely for 10 years and even more.

However, Dr Duru Shah shares an interesting insight where she says that there are many cases where a couple has one child, and they freeze the embryo for another baby and they never come back later for the process.

“The embryo sits with us for years. So we have started asking them to sign a consent form saying that they are happy to store the embryo for a year, and if they wish to store the embryo further, they have to come back and sign up for the next year and so on, till they decide to use it. We send them reminders and if they do not wish to go further, we either discard the embryos or give it for research and in very rare cases we give it to infertile couples,” she adds.

The surprising fact as narrated by Dr Shah, is that most of these couples don’t want to donate the embryos to other infertile couples and would rather donate it for research!

Cover image source: srijanfertility.com

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