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Egg Freezing at Family Beginnings, PC

Recently the American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the ‘Experimental’ label for egg freezing (i.e. cryopreservation), citing over 1000 reports in the scientific literature showing the procedure’s efficacy.

Figure 1. Mature Oocyte. Note the polar body near the 12 o’clock position indicating a mature metaphase II oocyte.
 

Over the years, technology has changed regarding the best method to cryopreserve mature eggs. The process was initially attempted using a ‘slow freeze’ technique. The cytoplasm of the egg is mostly water making the egg very susceptible to the damaging effects of ice crystals that form as the temperature is brought below 0 °C. The ice crystals act like spears to lyse the cell plasma membrane and destroy the cell. Substances called ‘cryoprotectants’ protect against the damaging effects of ice crystal formation. These chemicals essentially replace the water in the cells to protect them. Newer cryoprotectants combined with an improved ‘ultra-fast’ method to freeze cells, called ‘vitrification,’ has dramatically improved oocyte cryopreservation. Our IVF laboratory has been successfully using the most advanced techniques of cryopreservation for over a decade, and we feel comfortable that we can help even more patients with oocyte cryopreservation.

Indications for oocyte cryopreservation per ASRM:

  1. Patients that will receive chemotherapy or medications toxic to the ovaries for cancer or other conditions.
  2. Patients that have genetic conditions that would place them at high risk for ovarian cancer, like BRCA mutations.
  3. Patients that have diminished ovarian function due to conditions like endometriosis that are not in a relationship or ready to have children.
  4. Couples that are unable or do not wish to cryopreserve embryos due to personal or religious convictions.
  5. Failure to obtain sperm at IVF. On occasion, we may not be able to obtain sperm on the day of the procedure. Eggs can be frozen for later use.
  6. Elective oocyte cryopreservation to delay childbearing.

This list of indications will undoubtedly increase over time.
 

Frequently asked questions

What is the process like?

For patients that will receive chemotherapy, an abbreviated IVF type of ovarian stimulation lasting one to two weeks depending upon where that patient is in menstrual cycle is used. This involves subcutaneous injections daily and ultrasound exams to monitor the growth of ovarian follicles that contain eggs. For patients without the time pressure of chemotherapy, more standard types of IVF ovarian stimulations are often utilized.

What is the cost?

The medications for cancer patients may be free from the drug manufacturers. We have spoken to the representatives of these companies and should be able to help get medications as needed. We understand that patients are very stressed at the time of cancer diagnosis, and the thought of fertility preservation adds to an already stressful situation. The cost of the IVF stimulation ultrasound monitoring, blood work during stimulation, physician fee for egg retrieval, facility, cryopreservation of oocytes (i.e. vitrification) and embryology laboratory is $4000. This is about 25% of the cost of a standard IVF cycle. The fee for anesthesia is $460. Some of these fees may be covered by insurance. Our financial counselor works with all of our patients to help them through these issues.

Is egg freezing covered by insurance?

It is possible that some insurance covers at least part of the process. Because it is now considered 'non-experimental,' it is possible insurance companies may cover the cost. We will work with your insurance company to see what is covered.

My doctor wants to start medications soon due to chemotherapy, can the process be started more quickly than standard IVF?

Yes. Studies with cancer patients have shown adequate egg collection with non-standard IVF stimulation protocols that can be started mid-menstrual cycle.

When diagnosed with cancer, there is so much to think about so quickly. Can we get in to see Dr. Donahue quickly to begin the process?

Yes, Dr. Donahue is available, and we can work with your physician to coordinate care and get the stimulation and procedure done as soon as possible. We work 7 days a week!

If you have questions, please email: jdonahuemd@ivf-indiana.com.
 

 

 

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