Oocyte Vitrification: Stopping the reproductive clock by “freezing eggs” One of the primary reasons that there are so many fertility clinics in the United States is that American couples are living longer and delaying childbearing to pursue education and careers. The consequences of this change in behavior is much more significant for women than men because women naturally have a much steeper age-related decline infertility.  Hence, they are increasingly trying to start their families at a much less efficient time in their lives. The biggest factor in the age-related decline infertility is the aging oocyte (egg). Until recently, women had no option for preserving their fertility because it was not possible to successfully freeze eggs. However, advancements in freezing through a process called vitrification have revolutionized our ability to successfully freeze and thaw eggs, allowing women to essentially stop their fertility clocks. This is one of the most exciting developments in assisted reproduction in the last 30 years.  Katherine Scott, the embryologist at Atlantic Reproductive, has been a co-investigator in some of the pioneering research in this area and she has a proven track record of successfully vitrifying eggs that were later thawed and resulted in successful pregnancies.

How do we Vitrify (freeze) Eggs?:

Vitrification is a method of cryopreserving (freezing) eggs and embryos using ultra rapid cooling. Traditionally eggs and embryos have been cryopreserved via slow cooling. Slow cooling was once the standard of care, however ice crystals could form and cause damage to the eggs or embryos during the freezing and thaw process. Ultra rapid cooling to a glass like state by vitrification prevents ice crystal formation and improves the survival rate of both oocytes and embryos. At Atlantic Reproductive we use vitrification for oocytes on Day 0 and embryos on Day 5 and 6.

Why would someone Vitrify (freeze) Eggs?

Egg vitrification can be used for many reasons.

The most common are:

  • Fertility preservation,
  • Donor egg banking
  • To limit the number of eggs exposed to sperm during in vitro fertilization for religious reasons.

At Atlantic Reproductive we are unique in our ability to offer this clinically validated method of oocyte vitrification to our patients in Raleigh, NC. While still working at the RMANJ IVF laboratory, Katherine Scott, Atlantic’s embryologist, participated in a pivotal study regarding egg vitrification and its potential effects on the outcome: That study concluded that oocyte vitrification does not increase the risk of chromosome abnormalities or diminish the chances that an embryo will implant. This watershed study showed that high grade embryos from eggs that had been vitrified had the same chance of normal genetics and successful pregnancy as high grade embryos from fresh eggs.

Is Egg Vitrification (freezing) for fertility preservation only for women about to have cancer treatments?

When we speak to people outside of our field, they often think of egg vitrification as something that is only for oncology patients. While egg vitrification can be invaluable to a woman facing cancer treatment that will decrease her egg number and subsequent fertility, its potential usefulness is far greater.

  • To delay childbearing

Women may choose to delay their childbearing years.  Some women delay until they reach a certain level of career achievement, others are waiting for the right partner or the right time. Vitrifying eggs is not a guarantee of a future successful pregnancy, however it provides another avenue for pursing pregnancy should age related decline in fertility become a barrier to conception.

Recently fertility preservation has become a topic of interest in the media as celebrities such as Sofia Vegara and Kim Kardashian have publically discussed wanting to cryopreserve their eggs now in order to extend their fertile years. I applaud their willingness to speak openly and frankly on such an important topic.

  • To align fertility treatment with one’s comfort

At Atlantic Reproductive we value our patient’s individual backgrounds and varying beliefs.  We give the patients in our care the greatest number of opportunities to create the family they desire.

We understand that some of the couples want every embryo created to be replaced into the uterus; the ability to expose fewer eggs to sperm and vitrify additional eggs allows a greater number of options.

Some women working with anonymous egg donors who provide larger numbers of eggs desires egg vitrification to allow more flexibility when pursuing future siblings.   Atlantic Reproductive’s donor oocyte vitrification program is a great option for these patients.

The goal at Atlantic Reproductive is ensure that our patients are have access to latest clinically validated technologies here in Raleigh, NC. Whatever your reasons for interest in egg vitrification, we hope you will come and see us here.

By Katherine Scott, IVF Lab Supervisor, Embryologist, ART