Social Fertility Preservation
The Rotunda IVF Fertility Preservation Programme gives women the opportunity to conceive a child in the future, when due to personal choice or circumstance they must put the idea of having a baby on hold.
- What is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing is the process of extracting, freezing and storing a woman’s eggs so that they may be used to conceive a child at a later date. There are no absolute guarantees but egg freezing does give a woman the opportunity to try for a baby in the future.
- What does Egg Freezing involve?
There are three general steps involved in an egg freezing cycle:
Stimulation of the ovaries to encourage development and maturation of the eggs
Under the care of a consultant gynaecologist, the woman is given fertility medications to stimulate her ovaries to produce many follicles. Follicles are the small fluid filled structures which develop on the ovaries, each of which will hopefully contain an egg. The number and size of the developing follicles is measured by trans-vaginal ultrasound scans. The exact number of follicles which develop varies between patients, but the average is about 10.
The final preparation for egg retrieval involves a hormone injection which mimics the natural trigger for ovulation. Egg retrieval takes place 36-38 hours after this injection.
Retrieval of the Eggs
Egg retrieval is a minor theatre procedure which is carried out on an outpatient basis under local anaesthesia. The trans-vaginal ultrasound probe is used to visualise the ovaries and a needle attached to the probe is passed through the vaginal wall into the follicles. The fluid within each follicle is aspirated and then examined in the IVF laboratory for the presence of an egg. After identification, the eggs are washed and transferred into special culture medium in Petri dishes in an incubator.
Freezing of the eggs
The eggs are frozen in the laboratory using a method known as vitrification. The eggs can then be stored until the woman is prepared to conceive a child, then the eggs are thawed and used for IVF.
- What is Vitrification
Egg freezing is a relatively new procedure, because of the complications involved in preserving eggs. The fact that the egg is the largest cell in the body and high in water content makes it difficult to freeze safely. Traditional cryopreservation technology caused crystals which resulted in damage to a high proportion of eggs, making freezing unviable.
A new cryopreservation technology called Vitrification – a flash freezing process where a patient’s unfertilized eggs are placed in a special freezing solution – helps eggs to survive freezing and thawing so that they are intact and viable.
Current pregnancy rates following the use of thawed, vitrified eggs have begun to rival those achieved when fresh, unfrozen eggs are used. Thousands of babies have been born worldwide to those who have recovered from cancer and other serious illness, following egg vitrification.