One thing that has spiraled in the last few years when it comes to women’s health disorders is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS/PCOD. As per the results of a large-scale survey conducted across India in 2020, about 16 percent of women respondents between the ages of 20 and 29 years suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome. Roughly, one in every 5 women is diagnosed with PCOS.
Many factors are responsible for this among teens, hereditary and ecological factors including lifestyle, exposure to chemicals, and toxins over the years which directly impact the endocrine gland, causing disruptions in hormones. Symptoms include no ovulation, higher androgen levels, as well as ovarian cysts detectable by ultrasound.
For many people with PCOS, irregular or no ovulation becomes a matter of concern thereby making infertility a major concern in the future if they choose to have children. Not everyone with PCOS has a problem conceiving a child. While at Infano, we have already discussed many issues around PCOS like PCOS diet, PCOS Superfood, seed cycling and other ways to manage and reverse the condition, not being able to conceive are becoming a major women’s health issue for many youngsters with PCOS.
While medical science has come up with many path-breaking methods in women’s health and assisted reproductive technology processes like controlled ovarian hyperstimulation with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) injections accompanied by in vitro fertilization, IUI, artificial insemination, and surrogacy, another good option to consider for anyone who wishes to conceive later in life but is unsure how their PCOS may manifest in life, egg freezing seems to be a viable option too.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation in medical speak, is a fertility preservation technique where eggs are extracted from the ovaries and frozen so they can be used for an assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure, like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), in the future.
Freezing your healthy eggs in your youth to retrieve them later when you consider conceiving can be a very clever option. For most women with PCOS, not being able to conceive is a major stressor in life and they hesitate from practicing birth control or fear postponing pregnancy in the fear that they may not be able to conceive then.
So considering egg freezing to proactively preserve their chance of pregnancy later in life makes sense.
How Egg Freezing Works?
There’s a lot that goes into egg freezing before you even get to the part where the eggs are actually frozen.
A doctor first evaluates ovarian reserve through blood tests and also screens it for infectious diseases. Ultrasound may be done to determine overall ovarian function.
Synthetic ovary stimulating hormones are given to stimulate the ovaries to grow follicles that house and protect the eggs) Medication is given to prevent ovulation before egg retrieval.
After an ultrasound has confirmed that these follicles are ready for egg retrieval, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) injections are given to help with egg maturation.
Egg retrieval or harvesting is a clinical procedure performed under anesthesia. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina to locate the mature follicles which are then sucked out one by one with a long, hollow needle through the vaginal canal to the ovaries. Multiple eggs are retrieved to increase the chances of getting a healthy, mature egg. These are the flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen as part of a process called vitrification which increases the survival rate of eggs versus older technology, which now goes by “slow freezing.”
Things to keep in mind if opting for egg freezing
Not all the eggs you freeze are going to be viable. How many eggs survive depends on how old the person was when it was frozen and how many remain healthy and viable out of storage.
Fertility changes with age, so will the probabilities of conception and pregnancy at that age when you try to use them.
An optimal time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s and early 30s, when there are a higher and healthier number of eggs in your ovaries.
All bodies react differently and some may experience cramping and pain from the egg retrieval procedure or mood swings as the result of the hormones injected.
Weight gain and bloating can be another side effect of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) — a reaction to the fertility medication that promotes ovulation.
Is Egg Freezing Worth It?
All being said, and if the doctor agrees so, egg freezing is a good option to preserve fertility for not just people with PCOD/PCOS but also for many suffering form
· Cancer that requires chemotherapy or radiation,
· Any condition or surgery that could damage your ovaries,
· Have a family history of early menopause,
· Turner’s syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that comes with a risk of premature ovarian failure,
· Genetic mutations like BRCA, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and require the removal of the ovaries.