A common misconception that people hold is that more eggs will mean a better chance of becoming pregnant. We believe that traditional IVF methods use excessive medications to induce a large number of eggs from a single cycle despite the fact that the amount of medication required often makes these procedures very difficult on the body. New Hope focuses on quality rather than quantity because we understand that, for women around 35 years of age, any one menstrual cycle is only going to yield 4-5 good quality eggs regardless of the total number harvested. We gather eggs from 3 cycles to get the same number of eggs as a traditional IVF collection, however, unlike with traditional IVF, every egg we gather is of the highest quality possible. Our gentle processes also make it easy for patients to undergo 3 consecutive cycles, and at $8000 for a 3-cycle-package, and medication costs at only about $400 a cycle, Oocyte Freezing through Vitrification is becoming more and more popular every year.
In addition, Oocyte Freezing can help people who have to undergo chemotherapy by preserving their ability to have children with their own eggs at a later point in life. New Hope compassionately has been offering to help people in this situation with free oocyte freezing procedures for the past 3 years.
So Why Is Oocyte Vitrification So Ground Breaking?Oocytes are one of the largest cells in the human body and are comprised of two main parts: the zona pellucida, a glycoprotein envelope, and the ooplasm, the nucleus that contains most of the “living” organelles of the cell (mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and the Golgi system). For the purposes of freezing, oocytes are usually taken during the fully mature MII phase of meiosis (the multi-step process through which an oocyte prepares for recombination with male sperm). Retrieving oocytes and subsequently freezing them at their mature, pre-ovulatory stage means that when they are unfrozen, they will be ready to fertilize – egg recipients won’t have to wait any longer than necessary hoping the egg continues to develop healthily.
For a long time many doctors thought that because oocytes are such large cells, and cells are made up mostly of water, freezing an oocyte would be too difficult because ice crystals that form during a gradual freeze would damage the cell. Some doctors still believe that freezing cells safely, especially large ones like oocytes, cannot be done -- however they are wrong. A modern technique for freezing cells using vitrification, or flash-freezing, can drop the cell’s temperature by 20,000 degrees/second. This method is so fast that instead of forming damaging ice crystals the cell instead enters a glasslike state that tremendously increases the odds that the cell will survive for a healthy pregnancy. 98% of eggs and embryos survive thawing from vitrification whereas only 55% survive slower, traditional methods.
The healthiness of an egg is the primary factor that should be considered if one is planning to freeze their eggs. The prime reproductive age range for women is between 16 and 28, although one can usually count on good quality eggs until the age of 38. From 39-44, women may retain viable eggs but have a lower probability for a successful pregnancy. While oocytes should be saved when they are as healthy as possible these decisions should be made on an individual basis, depending on a patient’s life circumstances. While at New Hope Fertility we recommend that women freeze their eggs in their 30s and 40s, there is no age limit for the procedure and if you are 42 or 44, although your chances are lower, we will not turn you away simply to boost our success rates. On an individual, case-by-case basis we are happy to help patients talk about options and find solutions that match their personal circumstances.
We also recommend that anyone who is considering fertility preservation have an antral follicle count and hormonal blood tests with their annual pap smear. These tests will provide an important assessment of your fertility status and will allow you to make informed decisions about when to start a family or freeze your eggs. An antral follicle count is a sonogram that shows how many follicles (eggs) you have in reserve. This will tell us how much time you have left on your fertility clock.
The New Hope Fertility Center pioneered oocyte freezing in the United States by being the first to use it successfully for a live birth of twins on the East Coast in 2005. As research and testing has improved, so has the popularity and availability of the treatment. There have been over 1000 successful pregnancies using oocyte freezing to date, 600 of which were reported during the past four years. New Hope Fertility has continued to provide fertility care and oocyte freezing for women and has, to date, worked in this capacity with 131 patients, ranging from ages 20-52 with success rates comparable to traditional IVF. Indeed, the vast majority of procedures that are performed at New Hope these days use oocyte freezing.
Who Can Benefit From Oocyte Vitrification?
Lucinda Veeck’s An Atlas of Human Gametes and Conceptuses talked about oocyte freezing as it was in 1999: a promising concept under development, but not yet a reality for humans. However, she accurately predicted the significance of the technology with prophetic accuracy, writing:
“The ability to freeze unfertilized human oocytes would be invaluable in some cases. A young woman about to undergo radiation treatment or facing the loss of her ovaries could benefit greatly… an older woman wishing to store multiple oocytes before losing ovarian function could be aided by this technology… [and] donor oocyte banks could be created in much the same way as sperm banks have been to assist the ever-growing population of women requesting donor eggs.”
Today, a little over a decade later, oocyte freezing technology is being used for all of the aforementioned reasons. True to Veeck’s hypothesis, the three primary benefactors for oocyte freezing are:
1) Women who have been diagnosed with a medical condition that necessitates the removal of their ovaries or who are undergoing some kind of medical treatment, like chemotherapy, that may damage their reproductive system.
2) Women who are in the later half of their middle reproductive years (33-38) who want to defer childbearing either because it is not the right time in their life or they are still looking for a partner.
3) Women who wish to donate their eggs and don’t want to go through all the hormone therapy needed to sync their cycle with the recipients’ cycles before transfer – and conversely, egg donation recipients who will, with time, be exposed to a much larger pool of donors to choose from.
New Hope Fertility continues to encourage any women who fall under these three categories to visit our website or contact us to gather more information about our care or to schedule a consultation.