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"Is It Painful?" and Nine Other Questions You Have About Freezing Your Eggs

Everything you need to know about freezing your eggs, as told to us by a fertility specialist.

Egg Freezing. Even though it sounds like something right out a sci-fi movie, this procedure is being discussed quite frequently these days. As more and more women are choosing to get married and have children at an older age than before, conversations over cocktails and coffee have been turning to the topic of freezing your eggs, and all the hype that surrounds it.

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The one thing that we did realise was that nobody really had much clarity about what egg freezing was and what it actually entailed. There were those who seemed to equate it with getting a chemical peel, while others seemed to think of it as something quite scary. Hearing the varied number of opinions floating around, we felt that  they all  sounded quite contradictory. And so, in order to get to the bottom of things, we sat down with Dr. Aastha Gupta, Advanced Fertility/IVF consultant and Gynecologist at Delhi IVF and Fertility Centre, to arm ourselves with some facts. Here is what she had to say:

What does egg freezing mean, exactly?

The process of egg-freezing, or in medical speak, oöcyte cryopreservation, involves stimulating the ovaries with hormones to produce multiple eggs, retrieving the eggs from the ovaries and taking them to the lab, where they’re cooled to subzero temperatures to be thawed at a later date.

Why do women opt to freeze their eggs?

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There can be many reasons why women choose to freeze their eggs. According to our clinic stats, upto 88% of women do so due to lack of a partner. 24% do it for professional reasons, so that they can focus on their career, 15% for financial reasons, 15% because they are unsure if they are ready for such a large commitment at the given moment and 8% for other reasons. One such other reason could be treatment for an illness like cancer, which can cause the onset of early menopause, causing women to preserve their fertility before they start.

So, how does freezing your eggs help with this?

By freezing your eggs, you can literally stop your biological clock by preserving your healthy eggs at the age at which you do the procedure. Factors such as lifestyle and pollution are causing fertility to decline faster, especially in the 33+ age group.Your frozen eggs can ensure you don't have opt for a donor later, while also preventing against risk of down syndrome and other complications caused by a late pregnancy.

Quite simply put, once your eggs are frozen you literally freeze your biological clock, and then have the freedom to choose your partner or plan your child according to your career, without having to take this mental pressure in account while decision making.

How invasive, risky, and painful is this process?

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The procedure goes like this: The woman receives a round of hormone injections that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This stage involves frequent visits to the fertility clinic, usually between 10-14 days, while the ovaries are regularly monitored by vaginal ultrasound. After roughly a week or two of hormone treatments, the eggs are retrieved, under anaesthesia and in a short, mildly invasive procedure. You need to rest for one day when you do the process and then can get back to work from the next. Some woman get something known as Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome, but with the latest hormonal protocol these days, the incidence has really gone down. 

Speaking of the hormones, will they make you get fat and go crazy?

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Hormonal injections may cause bloating and some mood swings, which vary from person to person. All these symptoms go away once the process is done, and are usually mild for most people. Also, an awareness of where the moodiness is coming from makes it easier to be in control of it without feeling overtly upset. Most women go to work after getting their injections, and some even give themselves the injections. 

What about an increased risk of cancer?

The risk of getting cancer through this process and the medicines involved is less than 1%. 

What are the chances of having a baby once this process is done?

Firstly, when you do decide to get pregnant, you will first try the natural way, depending on your age. Only after that, do we go back to retrieving your eggs from the bank. The chances of retrieving a healthy eggs using vitrification is almost 95-99%. Chances of a live birth depend on the number of eggs frozen and how healthy they are( depending on the age you retrieved them), the implantation rate (age dependant), sperm quality and a few other factors.  Five eggs retrieved give you approximately a 15% chance, whereas 10 give you a 61% and 15 eggs give you an 85% chance. 

What is the best age to freeze your eggs?

Ideally, it should be done before 36. The earlier the better, as the quality of the eggs decreases after 30.

How expensive is it? 

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The cost of the procedure can be a little high ( upto ₹1.5 to ₹2 lakhs) but there is an EMI system now available for it, without any added interest. According to me, it is an investment in your progeny for the future ,and that must be kept in mind.

Why would you recommend egg freezing?

Due to modern lifestyles, the average age to start planning a baby is now 32. By the time many people start planning to have a child these days, they have exhausted a lot of their healthy eggs. Why go through the cycle of first struggling with the decision and then struggling with the actual act, all the time fearing for the health of a late baby? Prevention is better than cure, and modern science is giving us the option to be able to take control of our lives. Rather than compromising on your choices, you can choose freeze your eggs and not compromise. It's like preserving your fertility for the future.There is a huge myth about this process being very, very painful, but if you see the cost of this pain v/s going through multiple IVF cycles later, it's really negligible. Choosing to freeze your eggs is however, a hugely personal choice. You cannot thrust it down anyone's throat, the person involved has to take an informed decision for themselves.