Many women who are considering egg freezing often ask if their eggs will be safe during the process of freezing and throughout an indefinite amount of time spent in storage. At Shady Grove Fertility, we take all appropriate preventive safety precautions for frozen eggs to preserve and protect them so that they are available to you when you decide to start a family.
Safety Precautions for Frozen Eggs: Lab Advances Ensure Egg Quality
During the early years of egg freezing, embryologists would use a slow-freeze method of cryopreservation. Eggs are the largest cells in your body and have high water content. As a result, the slow-freeze method would create ice crystals. When the eggs were thawed, those ice crystals would break and damage the egg, reducing the likelihood of that egg being able to form an embryo.
“When the ice crystals form, they lice the cell membrane, so there’s always going to be this freezer burn or cyro damage. In these cases, it becomes questionable whether the egg is going to recover post thaw,” says Shady Grove Fertility Embryology Laboratory Supervisor, Taer Han.
Over the past few years, however, Shady Grove Fertility has adopted a highly effective freezing process called vitrification, an ultra-rapid procedure with liquid nitrogen that inhibits ice crystals from forming within an egg. Vitrification is a very efficient method of freezing your eggs and it proves strong survival, fertilization, embryonic development, and ultimately pregnancy rates after you decide to have your frozen eggs thawed.
“Vitrification, because it’s cooled at such a rapid rate, allows us to leap frog that freeze point to -38 degrees; you never even give the liquid in the eggs a chance to [form ice crystals],” says Han.
Safety Precautions for Frozen Eggs: Storage Methods
Shady Grove Fertility’s Egg Freezing Program keeps women’s eggs stored in liquid nitrogen versus vapor. Liquid nitrogen is more expensive but maintains a more stable lower temperature for long-term storage. It also ensures that there is zero metabolism, or movement of water within the egg, and essentially no subsequent freezer burn.
Safety Precautions for Frozen Eggs: Lab Security and Chain of Custody
All of the tanks that Shady Grove Fertility uses to store frozen eggs are monitored with 24-hour alarm services. The storage units are also extensively labeled in terms of chain of custody, “From the retrieval, through the freeze process, through the storage process, all the identifiers, like the patient’s name, date of birth, and medical record are triple checked by multiple embryologists,” says Han. Patients also take an active role in the chain of custody protocol when they are asked to verify their identification verbally at several points throughout their procedures.
Shady Grove Fertility has been a part of many nationwide protocol changes to better ensure the safety of all of the frozen eggs and embryos stored and used here. Furthermore, should a known, highly-damaging event be predicted to take place, we have partners further in-land who would safely house all of our patients’ eggs and embryos should it be needed. Luckily, this hasn’t happened in our 25 year history. Our first route of protection would be at one of our three laboratories located in Towson, MD; Rockville, MD; and Chesterbrook PA.
To learn more about safety precautions for frozen eggs or for more information, call 1-877-411-9292 to speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons.