Many of you may have heard that both Facebook and Apple, two large, well-known American companies, are planning to offer their employees egg freezing as a health benefit. The purpose is to preserve the fertility of working women who are not yet ready for motherhood. This move has stirred up much controversy and debate about whether this corporate perk is good or bad for women, the workplace and motherhood in general. It has also led many women to wonder what all is involved in this process.
Egg freezing is the practice where a woman’s eggs are frozen and stored for later use in vitro fertilization. This can be done due to issues with fertility or if a woman is going to have treatment for cancer that may affect her future fertility. It can also be done to preserve the opportunity for motherhood in the future for women who are not yet ready for pregnancy but want to have children at some point. IVF combines eggs and sperm outside the body in a lab, allowing the sperm to fertilize the eggs. Once an embryo or embryos form, they’re then placed in the woman’s uterus. Richard J. Paulson, MD, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California estimates that about 5 million babies have been born worldwide after regular in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Before egg freezing occurs, a woman is given fertility drugs to spur the ovaries to help more than one egg mature at a time. This phase of the process is called ovarian stimulation. To retrieve the eggs, a doctor guides needle into each ovary with an ultrasound probe and harvests the mature eggs while the woman is sedated. After this process has taken place, the eggs can be frozen and thawed when needed. Once they are thawed, the eggs are mixed with sperm to form embryos. These embryos can then be implanted into a woman’s womb to produce pregnancy.
If you are experiencing infertility and would like to get more information about your options, talk to your OBGYN today. Your OBGYN can also provide you with more information about egg freezing and in vitro fertilization and, if needed, refer you to a fertility specialist.