By COREY BURKE
Cryos International is the world's largest sperm bank and first free standing, independent egg bank in the U.S. and is regarded as an industry leader in the cryopreservation of human donor sperm and eggs. Cryopreservation has turned out to be the perfect way for women to not be confined to their biological clocks, and Cryos International is fully prepared to offer this procedure to women who want it.
Women are no longer enforced to be the homemakers and caretakers that are pressured to start families at such young ages like in the 1960's, but instead rising to the top of corporate ladders and pursuing long professional careers. Now that women are taking on top careers and higher and longer-term educations, beginning a family has begun to be pushed to later in life, and for some women putting off having children results in fertility issues and many not being able to have children of their own. Women began to become restricted to their ticking biological clocks, but now they have another choice, fertility preservation.
Until recently, fertility preservation was not available to women, but only available to men. Unlike men, women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, and at birth they have approximately 600,000 in their ovaries, but these eggs are lost at the tune of about 600 per month until they are completely gone at menopause. By age 36, almost half of all women's eggs are aneuploid, meaning they have extra or missing chromosomes, and in most cases these aneuploid eggs will not produce a viable pregnancy. Knowing that the biological clock is ticking, it is important for women to know that they have the opportunity to preserve their precious eggs as well. Cryos International is one of the only sperm and egg banks in the U.S. to be equipped with an in-house embryology laboratory along with state-of-the-art facilities, including an office surgery center. Patients will be able to have their egg retrieval done at the same location to provide optimal convenience.
In the Cryos embryology lab, the vitrification of the retrieved eggs will take place. Vitrification is the process of removing cellular fluids from the egg, replacing them with cryoprotectants like DMSO and ethylene glycol, and rapidly cooling them to -196°C in liquid nitrogen. Vitrification differs from freezing in that freezing involves the formation of ice crystals which damage cell membranes killing the cell. Vitrification involves cooling at a rate of - 10,000° C/minute, a rate so rapid that ice crystals cannot form. In 2012 the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) declared the procedure standard of care. Vitrification survival rates reached nearly 100 percent and pregnancies using vitrified eggs equaled those of fresh eggs. Vitrification has greatly slowed the ticking of the biological clock and empowered women to have control of both their professional life as well as their family life.
Fertility preservation has become known as Social Egg freezing and companies like Apple and Facebook now offer social freezing to their female employees, showing their encouragement for women to hold professional and long-term careers. Parties even began to pop up in cities like New York and Los Angeles to promote the benefits of fertility preservation. In 2016 the Department of Defense announced they would cover the cost of sperm and egg freezing for active duty military members. The new era of women being able to take control of their fertility is coming to life.
So how does the process of fertility preservation work? Women begin by contacting an egg bank, reproductive endocrinologist (REI), primary care physician, or attend a social egg freezing event. The next step is usually a consultation with a physician or other medical professional to explain the procedure and the risks and benefits associated with it. Cryos has highly experienced physicians that provide all the information patients need and want to know about the procedure. If they elect to proceed they are scheduled for an exam with an REI who will access their fertility status using a blood test to determine the anti-mullerian hormone(AMH) level and ultrasound to perform an antral follicle count. AMH does not predict a specific number of eggs, but higher values indicate a higher number of eggs remaining in the ovaries. Once the preliminary testing is complete, the patient is often put on oral birth control to regulate her menstrual cycle.
Once they reach the appropriate stage they begin taking injectable gonadotropins for approximately 8-12 days. These medications help the ovary to mature more eggs than would normally mature in a cycle. Depending on the age and ovarian reserve of a woman the number that mature can range from 5 to 50 eggs. While the patient is taking the medications, she is monitored at the REI's office every 2-3 days to track the development of the eggs through estradiol levels and vaginal ultrasounds. Once the follicles (ovarian structure that contains the egg) reach a certain size, the patient is given a "trigger" of hCG or Lupron to induce ovulation 36 hours following the trigger.
Approximately 34-35 hours later the eggs are surgically removed using an ultrasound guided needle that passes through the vaginal wall into the ovary. The needle passes into the follicles and aspirates the fluid containing the egg from them into a test tube. The tube is then given to the embryology laboratory which searches the fluid for the egg. The eggs are then incubated for a short time before the cumulus cells are removed and the maturity of the eggs evaluated. Only metaphase II (MII) eggs are considered viable for use in IVF and all others are discarded. The mature MII eggs are then vitrified and stored until the patient is ready to use them. At Cryos, a storage center is held on site for direct storage and regular monitoring. During this procedure, the patient will be under mild anesthesia so no severe pain will be felt. Women who have come to Cryos International for their treatment have mostly claimed to feel only a bit of cramping after the quick surgery is complete. The doctors and physicians at Cryos strive to make the procedure as painless and as comfortable for women as possible.
As with any surgical procedure there are risks. The decision to do social egg freezing should be well thought out and researched and should be viewed as an insurance policy that may never be needed. Those interested in social freezing should understand that not all facilities are created equally when it comes to freezing eggs. The facility that is chosen should preform egg freezing routinely and have a solid history of good results, such as that of Cryos International which has a full medical team of experts that have completed numerous successful procedures. Many clinics offer egg freezing as well, even though they may only preform a few procedures per year and may not be fully competent in the process.
Visit Cryos International's state of the art facility located in Orlando near UCF for any of your sperm or egg needs. Social egg freezing is offered to the public in addition to their donor products. If you are interested in fertility preservation/social egg freezing, contact the experts at Cryos.
Corey Burke is the Tissue Bank Director at Cryos International Sperm and Egg Bank in Orlando, one of the industry leaders in reproductive technology. Cryos offers fertility preservation to the general public. For further details please call 407-203-1175