The practice of egg freezing is gaining more popularity as women establish careers and are longer in the workforce, often delaying the childbearing years. Others may select to postpone a pregnancy for different reasons, yet maintain their possibility for conception at a later date. Some choose freezing and storing the eggs for future use for the reasons of the inability to conceive, either from reproductive surgery or the damage to eggs and ovaries from chemotherapy or radiation cancer treatments. With this innovative egg freezing technique come several possible risks and complications.
Damage to the Oocyte
Intracellular ice may damage and affect the functions of the plasma membrane of the oocyte (the female reproductive cell prior to the fertilization process). Oocytes are sensitive to temperature variations and can be damaged with the re-warming in humans. Freezing may cause difficulties for the chromosomes to separate, and damage to the DNA.
New Anxieties for Young Women
This method of postponing childbearing and freezing eggs could cause whole new pressures and anxieties for young women. Instead of worrying about finishing college and university and establishing new careers, young women may experience additional anxiety about the necessity to freeze their eggs for future use. This could come at a time of many expenses with the paying of tuition, coupled with the added stress of expensive reproductive techniques.
Reaction to Fertility Drugs and Ovarian Hyperstimulation
Fertility drugs and injections must be taken prior to the egg retrieval before the freezing of the eggs, and a reaction to the fertility drugs can occur. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHS) (over stimulation of the ovaries) can develop when the ovaries produce too many eggs. Fluid can collect in the abdomen, causing several complications.
Complications from the Egg Retrieval Process
Egg retrieval must be performed in order to freeze the eggs. As with any type of surgery, there is always the risk of bleeding, a reaction to the anesthesia, stroke, blood clots, pulmonary embolism and more. Infection can occur from both the egg retrieval and the hormone injections that must be taken weeks prior to the retrieval process.
With more embryos planted from the frozen eggs and embryos, a higher risk of multiple pregnancies than with natural conception can occur.
Disappointment and Depression
Some women may not have the expected successful results from freezing the eggs, such as poor embryo development or fertilization difficulties. If a woman has frozen her eggs with the expectation of becoming pregnant at a later date, disappointment could be the end result.
Women Being Uninformed for Possible Gain
There is always a risk of women not being properly informed, so that clinics or egg freezing establishments may have economic gain.
Harm of Using New Technology Prematurely
When a new procedure and technology are practiced prematurely, there are unknown safety factors that could arise. There are not enough scientific studies to prove that children conceived from egg freezing will not have problems. Little medical investigation has been done of the long-term risks for women with egg freezing. There is a need for more information about statistics and proof that egg freezing and a chance for a successful pregnancy exists. At present, medical studies indicate only two out of every 100 oocytes result in a pregnancy with egg freezing.