Carolinas HealthCare System

On December 13, 2010, CMC Women's Institute helped deliver one of the first babies in the Carolinas born as a result of oocyte vitrification, a process where a woman's eggs are frozen until she is ready to conceive. This breakthrough technology allows the eggs to be thawed, fertilized and then transferred to the uterus.

Melissa Rhyne enrolled in a study offered by CMC Women's Institute's Program for Assisted Reproduction at Carolinas Medical Center.  The study involved collecting and vitrifying (freezing) eggs, then thawing and fertilizing the eggs in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) laboratory.  The Rhynes then had embryos from two frozen eggs placed back into her uterus, resulting in a successful pregnancy, and the recent birth of a healthy baby girl!  In addition, two other couples have achieved healthy pregnancies that have progressed beyond the first trimester with this approach, and another is awaiting results of the pregnancy test after completing an embryo transfer from a frozen egg.

Oocyte vitrification is still considered investigational by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and should only be performed under the supervision of an institutional research review committee.  In the right hands, this breakthrough technology has many potential benefits for women who want to postpone pregnancy. For example, ovarian failure and sterility may occur in women who are planning to begin radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer, and oocyte vitrification allows storage of eggs until she is ready to have children, even if it is years later.  "Social freezing" may benefit a woman during her peak fertile years if she plans to delay childbearing because of her career or while she is waiting to find the right relationship. Furthermore, couples who wish to avoid fertilization of a large number of embryos during IVF procedures may consider oocyte preservation as the best possible solution.

Historically, the freezing of eggs has been harder to achieve because the egg is the largest cell in the human body and contains a lot of water.  When frozen, ice crystals can form and destroy the egg, so an ultra-rapid freezing process to used to reduce damage.  Vitrification can be completed in less than 15 minutes, and the eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen, but success requires technical expertise that few IVF centers currently have.

If you are interested in learning more about oocyte vitrification, or any other CMC Women's Institute service, please call 704-355-3149.