Egg Freezing Program
Since 2004, the NYU Langone Fertility Center Egg Freezing Program has been at the forefront of fertility preservation. Along with embryo banking, egg freezing—also known as oocyte cryopreservation—is an established way for women to postpone childbearing to a time when they are ready for parenthood.
Our internationally renowned program is led by Drs. Nicole Noyes and James Grifo, both experts in the field. Dr. Noyes is a past chair of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Fertility Preservation Special Interest Group, the society’s largest advocacy group.
Preservation of fertility is generally done for one of two reasons: a woman requires medical treatment—such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy—that can negatively impact fertility, or she is not yet ready for childbearing or childrearing for a variety of personal reasons. In either situation, eggs can be retrieved and stored for use at a later time.
Most women elect to freeze their eggs unfertilized. Another option is to combine the eggs with sperm from a partner, or a known or unknown donor, in order to create embryos, which are then frozen. Some women opt to do both—freeze some eggs and some embryos. Our physicians can discuss with you the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
To date, more than 2,500 freezing cycles have been completed at the Fertility Center, and we currently average more than 500 cycles annually. So far, more than 250 patients have come back and used their frozen eggs to create embryos. As of July 1, 2015, 80 babies have been born, with 22 additional singleton pregnancies on the way. The eggs used for these cycles were harvested from women up to 42 years of age. Our pregnancy rates from egg thawing are on par with those seen in traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles.
In addition, we have frozen eggs for more than 250 women with cancer. At this time, from our center, five babies have been born to people who had cancer as a result of this technology. Dr. Noyes is considered one of the leading authorities worldwide in fertility preservation completed for medical indications, and at the Fertility Center, we have the expertise to work with women who are also dealing with complex medical conditions.
Both the embryo and egg freezing processes start much like traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF). Medications are taken to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs that are then retrieved from the body and transferred to our embryology laboratory. For people with cancer, ovarian stimulation protocols are tailored to each patient’s medical needs.
Below is an overview of the embryo and egg freezing process.
Step One: Orientation Program
Prior to starting the treatment cycle, we teach you about the process, including how to administer medications, what happens during office visits, and how your eggs are retrieved and handled in the laboratory. Please note that after the initial consultation and prior to an egg freezing treatment cycle, you must attend the Fertility Center’s orientation program.
Step Two: Ovulation Induction
During a typical menstrual cycle, the ovaries release one egg. In preparation for egg freezing, fertility drugs called gonadotropins are self-administered daily to stimulate the ovaries to mature numerous eggs in the month of the treatment cycle. If more eggs mature, more can usually be harvested and used. Our goal is to retrieve somewhere between 8 and 25 eggs per treatment attempt. Most often, a higher number of eggs improves the chances of fertilization and, ultimately, future pregnancy.
Step Three: Egg (Oocyte) Retrieval
When the eggs are ready to be retrieved from the body, a 5 to 10 minute harvest procedure is performed at the Fertility Center using mild sedation. The doctor—using the aid of ultrasound visualization—guides a needle through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries to gently suction the eggs into a sterile test tube. After they are retrieved, the eggs are transferred to the embryology laboratory. Generally, about three-quarters of retrieved eggs are mature enough for freezing.
An anesthesiologist is present for all egg retrieval procedures. As with any surgical treatment, there are risks associated with egg retrieval that should be discussed with your doctor.
Step Four: Cryopreservation in the Lab
After the eggs arrive in the embryology lab, our staff analyzes them for maturity. Eggs can be fertilized with sperm at this time to create an embryo, if desired. If embryos are created, preimplantation genetic screening can be performed on them prior to freezing.
If eggs are frozen unfertilized, preimplantation genetic screening can be performed after the eggs are thawed, fertilized, and allowed to develop for several days in the laboratory. After they are frozen, eggs and embryos remain on-site at the Fertility Center.
To learn more about egg freezing or to schedule an appointment at the Fertility Center, please call an individual doctor’s office phone line, the main center’s number (212-263-8990), or fill out our appointment request form.