Articles for young women / 17 Mar, 2020

The facts on oocyte cryopreservation

Icon Writers

Oocyte cryopreservation for women with cancer

At the time of a cancer diagnosis, many women acknowledge that they want a child in the future or to add more children to their family. In both cases, oocyte or egg cryopreservation is a recommended fertility option to explore.

If you’re under 35-years-old, your chances of becoming pregnant are much higher than women over 35. However, if you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, your reproductive potential can decrease following chemotherapy treatment due to likely damage to your ovaries.

Oocyte cryopreservation is a fertility treatment worth considering before beginning your cancer treatment to preserve your fertility.

Oocyte cryopreservation, frequently referred to as egg freezing, is the process whereby a female’s eggs (oocytes) are retrieved, frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored for future use. Egg freezing is more suitable for women whose fertility may be impacted by their treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation treatment to the pelvis or surgical procedures than can damage the ovaries, but do not have a partner.

The oocyte (egg) freezing process

The freezing process incorporates three different phases: stimulation, egg retrieval and oocyte cryopreservation. A fertility specialist will conduct an initial assessment to determine the number of viable eggs available for retrieval through blood tests and pelvic ultrasound.

Stimulation

Ovarian stimulation begins with injecting hormones using the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) method for approximately 14 days. The stimulation medications may be self-administered through a pen device and small needle, which your specialist will teach you how to perform.2

Egg retrieval

This procedure is performed under light anaesthetic or sedation. An ultrasound guided probe is inserted into the vagina to collect the eggs. Inside the probe, a needle passes through the vaginal wall into the ovary and the eggs are aspirated.3 Being a short process (taking up to 2-hours), you may return home that day.

Vitrification

A microscopic assessment of the eggs is performed before being cryopreserved. The oocytes are then frozen using rapid cooling and placed into liquid nitrogen for storage.

Risk of oocyte cryopreservation

Some women run the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)—the enlargement of the ovaries and fluid pool in the abdomen and pelvis. If left untreated, this can be a potentially serious condition.

Frequently asked questions

Does the egg retrieval process hurt?

Most patients report minimal discomfort during the procedure. Minor post-operative discomfort is to be expected, with cramping being the most common symptom.

Do I have time to undergo oocyte cryopreservation before my treatment starts?

The procedure is time sensitive and must be completed as quickly as possible so as not to delay your treatment and compromise your cancer outcome. Please speak to your oncologist and fertility specialist about timing of this procedure and your treatment.

What’s the best number of eggs to store?

Your fertility specialist will advise you on the optimum number of eggs to freeze for each attempt at pregnancy.

What is the quality of thawed eggs?

When thawed, frozen eggs are generally of high quality.

What does cryopreservation cost?

The cost of cryopreservation fertility treatment will vary and also depends on your insurance coverage. Your oncologist will connect you with a suitable fertility specialist to discuss your needs and the costs involved.

References

For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Egg Freezing (oocyte cryopreservation). University of California Los Angeles (UCLA Health).Retrieved 13th March, 2020. https://www.uclahealth.org/obgyn/egg-freezing
  2. Egg Freezing. IVF Australia. Retrieved 13th March, 2020. https://www.ivf.com.au/treatments/fertility-preservation/egg-freezing
Back to Articles

Search