We asked a gynaecologist everything you’ve ever wanted to know about freezing your eggs
You know what’s common between Hollywood celebrities like Celine Dion, Sofia Vergara, and Kim Kardashian, apart from a fabulous career to boast of? It’s their common sense, we’d say. Why, you wonder? Well, imagine if they had to worry about having babies at the “right” age instead of working towards their career. How difficult would that be? But, these women chose the latter while taking care of the former.
They underwent the procedure of oocyte cryopreservation, a.k.a., egg freezing at the right time and decided to “preserve” their fertility. Back home, television producer Ekta Kapoor and ex-Miss World, Diana Hayden are also happy mothers thanks to egg freezing.
So, what exactly is egg freezing all about?
According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, planned oocyte cryopreservation (or planned OC) is an ethically-permissible procedure that may help women avoid future infertility due to reproductive ageing or other causes.
Wondering how it is done? Well, we got in touch with Dr Sunita Arora, senior consultant, Fortis Bloom IVF Centre, Fortis La Femme, Greater Kailash, New Delhi, for more details about freezing your eggs. This is what she has to say:
First, you’re prepped with hormonal injections: “The patient is given 10 days of hormonal injections, starting after her periods, following which the egg is removed under anesthesia,” says Dr Arora.
Now, y’all know how a woman’s ovaries usually release one egg a month for fertilisation by a sperm. These injections are nothing but doses of hormones such as the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)–which encourage the ovaries to produce more eggs. Basically, the more eggs there are, the better your chances of fertilisation later.
“The injections are very patient friendly and most of the times women undergoing the procedure can take the injections themselves,” explains Dr Arora..
Then, the eggs are collected: “Three to four ultrasounds are carried out during those 10 to 12 days while the patient is on injections. On the day of procedure, the person is discharged after six to eight hours of hospitalization for collection of eggs,” says Dr Arora.
Don’t worry, the extraction process doesn’t involve cutting you up. “The body is not cut open. Rather, the procedure happens through the trans-vaginal route under anesthesia without any scars. It takes around 20 to 30 minutes to retrieve the eggs,” she says.
Lastly, the eggs are frozen: “For women between 30-35 years of age, at least eight to 10 eggs should be frozen. Whereas if freezing is done after 35 years of age, 10 to 15 eggs should be frozen to ensure future fertility,” she points out.
She also says:
The eggs can be frozen for years together. We usually advise the patient to use frozen eggs within 4 to 5 years.
Now, to the most important question: How much does it cost?
“The cost of the procedure is somewhere between Rs 1 to 1.5 lakhs, depending upon the response to the injection doses,” says Dr Arora.
So, should you freeze your eggs?
According to Dr Arora, you should go for planned OC if:
- You’re nearing the age of 35 and are not planning a pregnancy anytime soon. “After 35, the quality of eggs starts deteriorating. So, between the ages of 30 to 35 is the right time to preserve your eggs,” she explains.
- You have low ovarian reserve, thanks to diseases like endometriosis. Your gynaecologist can help you out with this one.
- You are undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat ailments like cancer, as these techniques can lead to a steep fall in fertility.
Are there any risks involved with freezing your eggs
“Mild pain or abdominal distension may be seen in some patients. Hormonal injections also have short-term side effects like bloating and weight gain, which go away within 10 to 15 days of the procedure,” says Dr Arora.
The procedure also comes with high risks in some cases. She warns:
The probability of injury to vessels and the surrounding structure during the procedure is also there, though the chances are as rare as 1%.
Additionally, according to a survey of women who went for fertility preservation between 2012 and 2016, many women develop anxiety and disappointment due to failure of the procedure.
They cited a low number of eggs frozen, lack of information about the procedure, and lack of emotional support as the reasons for the same. Hence, you’ve got to know that the procedure does not guarantee fertility in the future.