Motherhood in their 20s or 30s is not every woman’s idea of life. Some women also want to build their careers first, or some want to wait until finding the right man. Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas recently revealed in a podcast interview about how she followed her mother Dr Madhu Chopra’s advice and froze her eggs at the age of 30. Last year, Priyanka, when she was 39, and her husband Nick Jonas, had their first child Marie Maltie through surrogacy.
Priyanka said in an interview, “I felt such freedom, I did it in my early thirties and I could continue on an ambitious warpath, I wanted to achieve, and I wanted to get to a certain place in my career. Also, I had not met the person I wanted to have children with. So, with that anxiety-inducing, and with my mom who is an ob-gyn (obstetrician-gynaecologist) going, ’Just do it’.”
Well, egg freezing is a concept you need to know about. HealthShots spoke to Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Gynecologist, Obstetrician, and IVF Expert, at Nurture Clinic, New Delhi, to understand the process of egg freezing.
What is egg freezing?
Dr Bajaj says, “Egg freezing basically means taking the eggs out of the ovary and storing them for a future use. Ovarian reserves a number of eggs in a woman’s body that get depleted with time, and as a woman starts ageing, the egg depletion leads to infertility or the inability to conceive with her eggs because the eggs get depleted with time.” So a lot of women are using this concept to store eggs in their 30s so that later in life whenever they want to plant a pregnancy before a certain time of menopause, they can use those eggs.
How is egg freezing done?
This involves a whole process. Here how it is done:
1. The first step involves hormonal injections
You are all aware that a woman’s ovaries typically release one egg every month for sperm fertilization. So, to stimulate a bunch of eggs to mature at the same time, hormone injections are given for 10 days before the eggs are removed under anaesthesia. These injections are nothing more than doses of hormones that stimulate the ovaries to create more eggs, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Generally, your chances of fertilization later are better the more eggs you have.
Most of the times, women undergoing the treatment can administer the injections themselves because they are quite patient-friendly.
2. The second step involves collecting eggs
While the patient receives injections for those 10 to 12 days, three to four ultrasounds are performed. On the day of procedure, after spending six to eight hours at the hospital for egg collection, the patient is released.
The extraction process does not involve any surgery or cutting you up, so don’t worry. Instead, the treatment is performed under anaesthesia via the trans-vaginal route, leaving no scars. The process of getting the eggs takes 20 to 30 minutes.
3. The third step involves freezing the eggs
It is recommended to freeze at least eight to ten eggs for women between the ages of 30 and 35. Whereas 10 to 15 eggs should be frozen if egg freezing is done after the age of 35 in order to ensure future fertility.
Is egg freezing similar to IVF?
Egg freezing is somewhat similar to IVF egg stimulation. Injections are given to make a woman superovulate to produce a large number of eggs. These eggs are then physically removed from the body through a transvaginal ultrasound-guided egg ovum pickup, which is done vaginally and under a mild anesthetic. The procedure is short; it is done in good hands. It is usually very safe and these eggs can then be stored if the woman wishes to conceive in her late 30s, or early 40s.
Egg freezing is the best option for women undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy!
Dr Bajaj says, “Freezing can also be utilized in women with diseases which require chemotherapy or radiotherapy! Women who are undergoing ovarian removal or ovarian resection can also freeze their eggs if they get a chance to before undergoing the surgery.” So, egg freezing is not only for women who are in the higher age group, even younger women who have some malignancy or who have conditions where radio and chemotherapy are required can utilise this.
The last word
It is important to have a good clinical assessment with the fertility specialist to understand whether you do require freezing or not. If you do, it should be done in a clinic that is well equipped, follows all safety norms, and by inclination is trained for this purpose and has ample knowledge on egg stimulation and ovum retrieval. The laboratory should be well equipped and should have the facility for freezing and maintenance of the preside till future use.