(This story is sponsored by Olive Fertility Centre.)
By Dr. Areiyu Zhang, MD
Do you want a family, but you aren’t ready to have a baby now?
It appears that as COVID-19 put dating largely on hold so more single women have decided to take control of their reproductive future and are freezing their eggs in record numbers.
Fertility clinics across Canada and the US have seen a surge in social egg freezing. At Olive Fertility Centre we have seen a 30 percent spike in the number of egg freezing cycles in the last year.
What is Egg Freezing?
The egg freezing process is the same as traditional IVF. It involves injecting medications that stimulate egg growth to the point they can be harvested. However, instead of fertilizing the eggs with sperm, the eggs are flash-frozen and stored until you are ready to have a child sometime in the future. At that point, the eggs are thawed in a lab and fertilized to hopefully result in a healthy embryo that can then be transferred into the uterus.
Empower Yourself with Knowledge
While fertility experts identify age 35 as when fertility starts to rapidly decline, the fact is we are all unique and in some individuals their egg quantity declines sooner than others. So, if you are considering egg freezing, it is important to have a complete fertility assessment with a fertility specialist.
How to Get Started
Your first step is to get a referral to a fertility clinic from your family doctor or a walk-in clinic (in BC your consult and most tests are covered by MSP with a referral).
Your Fertility Assessment
A fertility assessment includes a simple blood test that indicates your ovarian reserve. Ovarian reserve testing helps predict the number of retrievable eggs you would get from an ovarian stimulation cycle. If your ovarian reserve is lower than the average for your age, you might decide to proceed with egg freezing sooner rather than later or discuss other family building options with your fertility specialist.
The tests may include:
- AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) blood test
- Pelvic ultrasound with antral follicle count
While ovarian reserve tests can give some insight into the remaining quantity of your eggs, they do not give information about the quality of your eggs. In addition to egg quantity, egg quality declines with age. Lower egg quality leads to a higher rate of infertility, more frequent miscarriages, and a greater risk of chromosomal disorders in the baby.
A New Assessment Tool for Egg Quality
Until recently, there has been no way to evaluate egg quality. However, there is now a promising new assessment tool called Violet that uses artificial-intelligence (AI) technology to help patients gain insight into the quality of the eggs they are freezing. Violet uses an algorithm, based on tens of thousands of images, to assess the probability of each individual egg developing into a healthy embryo and resulting in live birth.
The way it works is that the embryologist takes a photo of each harvested egg. Based on that image, the AI-based software calculates the likelihood of that egg successfully fertilizing and developing into an embryo.
This offers patients a more personalized prediction. Instead of trying to estimate your chances of conceiving based on just your age and number of eggs frozen, this technology assesses each egg independently.
Your doctor will review your Violet report during your follow-up consultation. Patients can use this added insight to make an informed decision about whether they want to do another cycle, and if so, how to tailor the next egg freezing attempt to optimize outcomes.
Choosing a Fertility Clinic for Egg Freezing
In addition to a knowledgeable and experienced fertility doctor, the embryology lab is key to successful egg freezing and future egg thawing when you decide to fertilize your eggs. The freezing and thawing of eggs are delicate processes that take a high level of skill. It is important that the embryology team has many hours of experience with egg freezing specifically. You want to choose a fertility centre that performs 200 or more cycles per year.
To learn more about egg freezing sign up for a free on-line information talk.
Let’s Talk About Egg Freezing
Wednesday, November 17th 6:30 to 7:30 pm
With fertility experts Dr. Zhang and Dr. Cho
Dr. Zhang is a Clinical Assistant Professor and a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility specialist at Olive Fertility Centre.More