WHAT IS OOCYTE CRYOPRESERVATION (VITRIFICATION)?

The technique of oocyte cryopreservation has been a breakthrough option for women/ couples who are either unable, or not ready, to conceive at this time. Vitrification, also known as egg freezing, is the process in which an oocyte (egg) is extracted, frozen, and stored in an oocyte bank to be used for conception at a later time.

The eggs will be held until a woman has deemed she is ready for a pregnancy, at which point the eggs can be thawed and used for IVF using a sperm injection procedure (ICSI). The thawed frozen eggs which are fertilized are grown in culture and the resultant good embryos are implanted.

WHO IS A CANDIDATE FOR OOCYTE CRYOPRESERVATION?

Oocyte cryopreservation is an excellent option to preserve a woman’s viable eggs for future use in cases where she may not have a ready partner but of advancing age, is to undergo cancer therapy, has a medical condition which may destroy her eggs prematurely or for cases where an infertile couple does not want excess embryos created and stored but the female partner has produced excess viable egg(s) thru IVF.

HOW ARE EGGS RETRIEVED IN VITRIFICATION?

The retrieval process of an egg to prepare it for Vitrification is the same process used to acquire eggs for use with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Included in this is the typical two to four weeks where a woman will undergo hormone treatments to stimulate the production of eggs, the monitoring of the eggs in order to determine the exact moment they have reached maturity, and the surgical removal of these eggs once they have reached that stage. The process differs from the standard IVF process because once the eggs are removed, the patients undergoing Oocyte Vitrification have their the eggs frozen after retrieval instead of fertilized.

ARE THERE RISKS WITH VITRIFICATION?

One potential complication that people think will arise is that the egg could be harmed during freezing since the cells are largely composed of water. The thought process being that ice shards could damage the egg. This is not a risk with Vitrification, once the egg is removed it is dehydrated before it is frozen. The water that the cell did possess is replaced with a cyroprotectant that inhibits the development of these ice crystals, making Vitrification safe for the egg.

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