For years, fertility specialists have frozen sperm and embryos, allowing infertile couples more options for conceiving a child. Until recently, egg freezing resulted in little success. A new process called vitrification now provides another choice for single women and couples who want to get pregnant.
In the past, eggs were preserved via a slow freeze process. Because of the high water content of the eggs, they were susceptible to ice crystal formation. During the thawing procedure, the ice crystals could then fracture and damage the egg. These issues meant egg freezing did not offer much hope as a fertility treatment option.
Vitrification is a rapid freezing process that does not permit ice crystals to form. As well, vitrification utilizes newer cryoprotectants, substances that shield biological tissue from freezing damage. With vitrification, the egg is placed in a bath that includes a cryoprotectant and sucrose (sugar), which help draw water out of the egg. Next, the embryologist places the egg in a high concentration of cryoprotectant for less than a minute; this step is followed by a liquid nitrogen bath that instantaneously freezes the egg.
When the right time occurs, the egg is thawed during a rapid cooling process. After the egg is defrosted, it must be injected with sperm through a process known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection – ICSI. Current research indicates that pregnancy rates with eggs frozen through vitrification are close to those that used fresh eggs.
For women who want to delay childbearing, individuals without a partner and those facing issues such as cancer, vitrification provides another avenue for protecting fertility and creating families. These individuals can now choose to preserve eggs without the need for combining them with sperm. During a consultation appointment, Dr. Douglas can explain vitrification in great detail, and answer any questions.
Don’t give up on your desire to create or add to your family. Contact our fertility office to schedule an appointment. Dr. Douglas and our team use the latest techniques, including vitrification, to help our patients become parents