One of the significant breakthroughs in assisted reproductive medicine, preservation of reproductive material, was made in Germany in the late 90s. Oocyte preservation is a very promising technique that gives women a unique chance to save fertility and to be flexible in taking decisions, concerning future pregnancy, since it helps to stop biological clock.
Who needs oocyte cryopreservation?
When the fertility potential is higher, it might be advantageous to remove a couple of oocytes and to freeze them for future IVF attempts. There are number of reasons, why egg freezing could be indicated. The key areas are:
- Saving of fertility potential in patients with cancer
- Fertility preservation because of social reasons (i.g. if a woman is not ready to have a child due to career or other reasons)
- Improving the safety of IVF protocol (no need of hormone stimulation)
Oocyte cryоpreservation is also advisable if more eggs have been retrieved during the IVF cycle than it is needed. In case in vitro fertilization attempt has failed, a woman can apply to the so-called “Frozen Transfer-Protocol”, which is much shorter and softer than the regular IVF procedure. The major advantage is that no repeated hormone stimulation is needed for such a procedure. The cost of egg freezing is about 2 000 euro. Afterwards you will have to pay annually about 500-800 euro for stocking the oocytes at a German clinic.
Slow freezing vs. shock freezing
Cryobiology in Germany is a privileged medical field, which is supervised by a German Institute of Medical Control. The reason, why oocyte cryopreservation has recently become more efficient is than German specialists apply new methods of reproductive material freezing (eggs, sperms, embryo etc.). There are two basic ways to freeze eggs and embryos. One is called “a slow freezing method” and the second one is called vitrification. Let’s dwell on risks and benefits of these two techniques.
Why is slow freezing an outdated technique?
During a freezing process eggs are gradually brought to lower temperature in a stepwise fashion until they get frozen. This procedure takes approximately one to three hours. The problem of this type of cryopreservation method boils down to a fact that the percentage of eggs or embryos that have survived the freezing is rather low (about 20%). Besides the mitotic spindle structure, necessary for fertilization, gets in many cases damaged. This made the usefulness of slow oocyte cryopreservation very poor.
New vitrification technique boosts the pregnancy chances
Nowadays German specialists favor a new freezing technique called vitrification, which lasts a couple of minutes and is much safer for reproductive cells. The egg (oocyte) is plunged in nitrogen solution and the temperature is reduced very quickly. The major advantage is that no damaging crystals build up in the egg structure, which makes the oocyte survival rate really high (80%). The fertilization rate is higher as well: usually over 60% of eggs survive after thawing, which allows the fertility specialists to achieve pregnancy rates of a least 50% in the first or second IVF cycle.
Oocyte cryopreservation procedure: “supercooling” for future life
The oocyte cryopreservation is performed in a specially equipped laboratory and represents a three step process:
- Step 1: the most vital oocytes are selected from the follicle liquid under microscopic control and placed with a denuding pipette into the special dehydrating media. Proper dehydration of egg cells or embryos helps to avoid a crystallization effect and to cut risks of cellular damage during vitrification of oocytes. It should be done within 2 minutes.
- Step 2: the prepared oocytes are put into a special straw, which is labelled with your ID number.
- Step 3: the oocytes in a straw are immersed into the final solution, in which they will be stored. The temperature needed for cryopreservation is about 190 Grad Celsius. This solution becomes viscous and forms a transparent glass around the oocyte and embryo, not affecting its internal structure.
The German Medical Group wants even more international patients benefit from oocyte cryopreservation in Germany. For this reason we gladly offer free consultations about this new technique and inform the patients about costs of egg (oocyte) freezing at German fertility centers. We are ready to answer each your question and to find the fertility clinic, which is perfectly tailored to your individual needs.