“A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months, in your arms for three years, and in your heart until the day you die.” ~ Mary Mason
If there is any bigger takeaway that I can share with you all, throughout my journey as an Embryologist and across the entire span of my career, is that there is truly no bigger joy than the birth of a life – for every mother, every parent. This is, in simple words, also my biggest achievement that through various medical techniques and scientific advances, I have been fortunate to provide the joy to many hopeful potential parents over my career span. Whether it is In-Vitro Fertilization, Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection, or in recent years the Egg and Embryo Freezing modalities; these tool are responsible for giving me my life-long experience of assisting many hopeful couples and singles achieve their dream of becoming parents and joy of experiencing parenthood.
For this week’s blog post, I wanted to focus on some of the most pertinent terms related to Egg Freezing, as I believe many of the inquisitive readers are not fully aware of the meaning of those terms. As much as I agree that many of these clinical terms may not be fully understood by most of the people outside of the medical science world, I would like to give a short explanation for 6 of the most important terms to ensure and enable our audience to get a better understanding for future blogs on deeper topics of Egg Freezing.
1. Ovarian reserve:
This term refers to the capacity of the female reproductive organ – ovaries, to provide healthy eggs that are able to be fertilized. As women age, their egg quality and quantity decrease; both of these factors affect ovarian reserve. “Diminished ovarian reserve” refers to the loss of this capacity, either due to age, injury, or disease.
Infertility is a dysfunction of the reproductive system, defined by physicians as the inability to get or stay pregnant after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex. Being diagnosed as infertile doesn’t mean a woman can’t get pregnant—it just means something is preventing her body from getting pregnant on its own. Experts estimate that 1 in 8 women experience infertility; for women over 35, that number jumps to 1 in 3.
Inside the ovaries, there are fluid-filled pockets called “follicles” that hold the eggs, one egg per follicle. The follicles also produce estrogen, which leads to ovulation, and progesterone, which preps the body for a possible pregnancy. Follicles typical remain “sleeping” (in their “primordial” state) until they’re activated at the beginning of the menstrual cycle; though a number of follicles are activated in any given cycle, only one egg will mature and be released during ovulation. The number of follicles activated in an ovary at the beginning of a cycle can indicate a woman’s ovarian reserve.
In the context of reproductive medicine, stimulation refers to the use of hormonal medications to promote the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs in a single cycle, as opposed to the single egg usually produced.
5. Oocyte Cryopreservation
Cryopreservation term refers to freezing biological material, such as a cell, tissue, or organism, in order to protect it from damage or aging. When biological material is frozen at a low enough temperature, all activity stops, including the activity leading to cell death or DNA degradation, and therefore the material is preserved. This is the “technical” term for egg freezing. Oocytes are egg cells, and “cryopreservation” means “to preserve by freezing.”
Vitrification is a “flash freezing” technique that cools cells very quickly to a temperature of -196º Celsius, or about -320º Fahrenheit. Because the freezing happens so fast, the frozen cells become “glass-like,” or “vitrified,” minimizing the chance that the water inside the cells will form damaging ice crystals. This is especially important for egg freezing, since eggs (as opposed to other things we might freeze, like sperm) are mostly water. Studies have demonstrated that vitrification is superior to any other method of egg freezing, including slow freezing. At Indo-Nippon IVF, we use Cryotech Vitrification, which is proving to be one of the most efficient and cutting edge method for egg freezing.
“Thawing,” in the context of egg freezing, refers to the controlled warming of a previously frozen egg in order to fertilize it. It is the exact opposite of the Vitrification process. By thawing the eggs, we restart the egg’s suspended metabolic activities and make it ready to be fertilized and begin a new life. At Indo Nippon IVF, our survival rate for eggs, after the freeze-thaw process is 100% for good quality mature eggs.
To the best of my knowledge, these are the top 7 highly important terms related to the Egg Freezing techniques – the meaning of which I am often questioned in layman words, or asked to give a simpler explanation by patients. Apart from these, if there are still any other terms that you may have come across in my blogs here, or that you may have read on any other article on the internet, then do share those terms in the comment section. I will make sure to give a simpler explanation for those terms in the next few weeks.