With several advances in medical knowledge, research and development, and technology, there are many solutions for infertility. From intracytoplasmic sperm injection, to in-vitro fertilization and cryopreservation of spermatozoa, oocytes, embryos and blastocysts, doctors have a variety of ways to help infertile women and couples.
Of course, there is no exact science, and for even the most beneficial, advanced techniques, drawbacks, limitations and risks are not uncommon.
Oocyte cryopreservation carries various risks, including medical conditions due to, or related to the use of drugs that facilitate or induce fertility. Less commonly, the use of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), an injectable fertility drug that induces ovulation, can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). This is a condition wherein the ovaries become swollen and painful, and it occurs shortly after egg retrieval. If you experience signs and symptoms such as pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or even a general bloated feeling, you may be suffering from OHSS. In rare circumstances a more acute form of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can develop, and its symptoms include rapid weight gain as well as dyspnea (i.e. shortness of breath).
The procedure of egg retrieval itself has its own complications. The use of a needle to retrieve oocytes using aspiration may cause bleeding or damage to the bowel, bladder or a nearby blood vessel. Additionally, infection may occur if the procedure is performed by an inexperienced, poorly trained specialist using improper aseptic technique. This underscores the importance of finding a well-established clinic with proven results.
For some egg retrieval procedures, general anesthesia may be used. There are some important side effects to the drugs used in general anesthesia. Also, since general anesthesia requires intubation, there is the risk of iatrogenic injury. With this in mind, it is very important to discuss with your fertility specialist whether general anesthesia will in fact be necessary, and whether or not you can avail of alternatives.
Oocyte cryopreservation can lead to false hope, thus an emotional risk must be acknowledged. The procedure, coupled with in vitro fertilization, has a limited success rate, and with more and when more complicated procedures are required, the overall pregnancy rate decreases. Every patient is different, with unique medical histories and issues. It is important to manage expectations, and have the correct perspective.
Although research has not demonstrated that the risk for birth defects is increased for babies born from oocytes that have been previously undergone preservation, there is enough evidence to show maternal age as an important factor. By using your own frozen eggs to become pregnant with your own biological child, the risk of miscarriage is highly correlated with your age at the time of egg retrieval. Older patients have a much higher risk of miscarriage than their younger counterparts.