Your biological clock is ticking.
It’s something that many women approaching their 30s hear all the time. It can put a lot of pressure on couples, but even more for married couples struggling to get pregnant. In recent years, egg freezing has emerged as an empowering option for women to take control of their reproductive future and has revolutionized how we think about family planning.
Whether driven by career aspirations, health concerns, or even if it’s just a matter of personal choice, oocyte cryopreservation has opened the doors to possibilities.
In this article, we’ll delve into the whats and hows of oocyte cryopreservation with insight from one of Victory ART Laboratory’s world-class fertility specialists and Medical Director, Dr. Gia Pastorfide.
What is oocyte cryopreservation?
Dr. Gia Pastorfide defines oocyte cryopreservation, otherwise known as egg freezing, in the simplest way: it’s a procedure that allows women to store eggs while they’re younger for use in the future when they’re older. Egg freezing is also recommended in medical emergencies, such as the setting of a newly diagnosed cancer.
“The technology holds great promise for women of reproductive age,” says Dr. Gia. The process begins with ovarian stimulation, in which patients are given exogenous hormones to allow the ovaries to produce multiple follicles. Once the follicles mature, the eggs are harvested in a short outpatient procedure.
The eggs collected will then undergo a vitrification freezing process, after which they are stored in the laboratory. The process takes approximately two weeks.
Once the patient decides to use her eggs, they are thawed in the laboratory. The thawing process is rapid and done on the same day the eggs will be fertilized; thus, thawing must be synchronized with a woman’s cycle. On average, over 90% of frozen eggs survive the freeze-thaw procedure.
How are frozen eggs fertilized?
Thawed eggs are fertilized in the laboratory using Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, or ICSI. A single sperm is injected into the center of each oocyte, and an estimated 60 to 70% of the injected eggs will be expected to fertilize normally. Once fertilized, the oocytes, now embryos, will be cultured in the laboratory for 3 to 5 days and will later on be transferred into the uterus using a small catheter guided by ultrasound imaging.
“Is egg freezing right for me?”
Oocyte cryopreservation offers a ray of hope for a diverse range of women facing distinct life circumstances. Those who may benefit from the procedure include patients facing the risk of premature menopause and ovarian failure, women undergoing rigorous chemotherapy or radiotherapy as part of their cancer treatment, individuals without a male partner, women who are dedicated to their careers or are not in stable relationships, cases where sperm availability is limited at the time of egg collection, and even those who are participating in oocyte donation programs*.
Egg freezing empowers women to take control of their reproductive futures, offering hope, choice, and the potential of parenthood on their own terms.
*Note: egg donation programs are not available in the Philippines.
When is the best time to have an egg freezing procedure done?
According to Dr. Gia, egg quality is best when a woman is in her reproductive prime — that is, in their late 20s to early 30s. Many eggs are usually still of good quality in the mid-reproductive years, from age 29 to 38, and may remain usable in the late reproductive period from age 39 to 44, but with a diminished chance for pregnancy.
Dr. Gia emphasizes that it’s crucial to have eggs frozen when they are of the best quality possible: “I generally advise patients to consider freezing [their] eggs before the age of 35.”
The costs of oocyte cryopreservation: how much is it?
A cycle of egg freezing can go for around P300,000 and can be influenced by several factors, such as the patient’s age and required treatment plans.
How should one prepare for the egg freezing procedure?
Fertility procedures are generally mentally, emotionally, and physically draining activities, and Dr. Gia ensures that, before they begin the process of egg harvesting, her patient is well-informed about it.
“I sit down with the patient and explain the whole process… It is advisable for patients to have a healthy lifestyle before they freeze their eggs,” Dr. Gia explains. A healthy lifestyle entails eating healthy and exercising to maintain a normal body mass index (BMI). Patients are also advised to avoid alcohol and smoking, and if a patient has other medical conditions, these should be managed before she begins the egg-freezing procedure.
“I advise my patients to find a free period in their schedule,” Dr. Gia adds. The 10-12 day ovarian stimulation process won’t require any time off work, but the actual egg harvesting procedure may require one day off.
“Lastly, I encourage patients to remain optimistic and have a positive outlook. There can be hormonal effects at play when there is stress. A good motivation for patients is to see egg freezing as empowering in the long and short term.”
How in demand is egg freezing in the Philippines?
Dr. Gia shares how egg freezing has gained more popularity in recent years: “I would attribute this to awareness brought about by social media and information campaigns. Moreover, data regarding this procedure is easily accessible over the internet. I have seen many empowered patients who actively want to preserve their fertility potential.”
Aside from this, Dr. Gia suggests that uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic may have also played a role in the rise of oocyte cryopreservation.
What do the statistics say?
Dr. Gia shares the successful pregnancies from thawed eggs at Victory ART: “In our laboratory, 25 to 30% of women have used their frozen eggs. In those that have decided to thaw their stored eggs, [we’ve] had a pregnancy rate of 45 to 50%.”
Though some studies mention that live birth from egg freezing is slim, Dr. Gia explains that the procedure is a ‘form of reproductive insurance.’
“In this regard, I would encourage them to freeze a good number of eggs, so they have a better chance of obtaining a live birth if they decide to use their eggs in the future. I would encourage them to freeze between 10 to 20 eggs.”
Dr. Gia adds that a study by Bakkensen in November 2022 also revealed that freezing your eggs at a younger age is more cost-effective and increases your chances of pregnancy than doing IVF with genetic testing when you’re older.
Oocyte cryopreservation is a game-changer, and with world-class fertility specialists like Dr. Gia Pastorfide at the helm, you can script your own parenthood story. It’s not just about freezing eggs; it’s about freezing possibilities, optimism, and hope.
Learn more about this procedure by booking a consultation with Victory ART Laboratory. Take charge of your reproductive journey today.