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Interest in egg freezing has been on the rise for the past few years, but in the last month, it has exploded due to the announcement by Facebook and Apple that they would provide egg freezing benefits for their employees. To meet this rising demand for information and education, Shady Grove Fertility recently held its inaugural Egg Freezing Conference. In conjunction with the conference, Sarah Simmons of Fox 5 Health Watch interviewed Joseph Doyle, M.D. of Shady Grove Fertility’s Rockville office. Sarah asked Dr. Doyle several questions about egg freezing, many of which were similar to questions that arose at the conference. The below Q&A session provides an in-depth look at questions patients have begun to ask about egg freezing:
What is the actual egg freezing process?
When a woman begins the egg freezing process, her physician will first put her on birth control pills to create a baseline for follicle (or undeveloped eggs) development. Following this step, the patient will begin taking injectible medications for approximately 12 days. These medications essentially help stimulate the follicles that would otherwise naturally die off. During this time the patient has several ‘monitoring’ appointments at a Shady Grove Fertility location to monitor follicle growth and development.
When an appropriate number of ovarian follicles have responded and are determined to contain mature eggs, a final trigger injection will be given to help with the final maturation and release of the eggs for retrieval. 36 hours after the trigger injection, the patient would go to a local Shady Grove Fertility lab (Rockville, MD, Towson, MD and Harrisburg, PA) for the egg retrieval. The egg retrieval is painless as it is done transvaginally and while the patient is under twilight sedation (a light anesthesia). Because it is a minor surgical procedure, you will need a ride home on the day of the retrieval and it is advised to rest the day. Many women are able to return to work the next day. You will receive a call the day after your egg retrieval to let you know the number of mature eggs that were able to be frozen. Medial contribution provided by Shruit Malik, M.D.
What is a thaw/thaw rate?
Thaw refers to the initial step in the use of frozen eggs when it is time to fertilize them to form embryos. Though it is a carefully performed process when it comes to frozen eggs, it can simplistically be thought of like thawing something that has been frozen in the freezer. Frozen eggs are warmed to body temperature, at which point they can be combined with sperm, resulting in the production of an embryo. Thaw data represents how successful a fertility center is at using frozen eggs for fertilization and pregnancy. This is valuable information when selecting a center; if they do not have thaw data, they would not be a good candidate for your elective egg freezing procedure. -Medical contribution provided by Joseph Doyle, M.D.
How and where are the frozen eggs stored? Are there preventative measures in place for the stored eggs in the event of a natural disaster, power failure, etc.?
After undergoing the vitrification or flash-freeze process, both eggs and embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks in the liquid phase. The tanks are stored in our labs which are secured in an alarmed area that is monitored remotely; 24 hours a day and every day of the year. The tanks are measured and topped off weekly as part of our quality control. While the tanks only require liquid nitrogen and therefore no electricity, the monitoring system does require electricity, so our lab is on a backup generator in case of a power failure.
If there is a warning for a major tornado near any of our three labs (D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia), we can move the tanks to one of our other labs. For something more serious and unprecedented, we could drive inland to one of our affiliate practices like FCI in Chicago.
Are the procedures any different for same-sex couples?
The procedure for a same-sex female couple is the same procedure as it would be for heterosexual couples. The only difference is in how the eggs can be used in the future; the couple may opt to return and have the other partner carry the pregnancy, (the woman who did not have the egg freezing cycle).
Can I switch between financial programs Assure20 and Assure30?
Assure20 and Assure30 are the only financial programs for egg freezing offered at any center in the nation. If a patient chooses to enroll in one of these guarantee programs – Assure20 or Assure30, they are essentially locked in to that program. However if a patient chooses the single cycle, they are able to move forward in the multi-cycle discount program for subsequent cycles.
What happens to my eggs if I ultimately do not need to use them?
Patients that opt not to use their eggs in the future can elect to: Donate their eggs to research, discard them, or potentially donate them to another patient.
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If you would like to learn more about the Egg Freezing Program at Shady Grove Fertility and whether it’s the best option for you, call 1-877-411-9292 or schedule an appointment today by filling out this brief form.