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Harvesting Eggs

Harvesting of ovum is a way of preserving a woman's eggs or gamete, if she chooses to postpone her plans of having children due to work or other commitments. This article explains the process of egg harvesting.
It is said that the best age for a woman to become a mother is between the age of 24-30 because she is the most fertile during this period. However, today, women are becoming very serious about their careers and starting a family is not their priority while they are trying to build their career. Rather, women want to have children only when they are ready mentally as well as financially. It is a fact that it is difficult to get pregnant after 35. Moreover, the risk of pregnancy complications like miscarriages or birth defects also increase with the age of a woman. Nevertheless, with the introduction of egg harvesting, women are able to delay motherhood without worrying about the issues of infertility that come as they grow older.

Harvesting Female Eggs
The concept has become popular among women because it gives them the opportunity to have healthy pregnancies even after the age of 35. The idea of preserving a woman's eggs was taken from the concept of egg donation where young women donated their eggs to older women in order to bear a child. With this, scientists realized that the age of the egg is more important than the age of the woman. It has been observed that once a woman reaches her 30s, the quality of her eggs or ovum starts decreasing, making the chance of fertilization very less. So if a woman preserves her eggs when she is in her 20s, it is possible for her to have a child later in life. Harvesting is also a good option for women who are suffering from diseases that can cause fertility issues. In such cases, harvesting one's eggs can ensure that the woman can become a mother once she is completely cured from her illness. Another advantage is that the ovum taken from one woman can be donated to other women who are not able to conceive.

Procedure
The process is not very complicated, but it may take a lot of time for the entire process to be completed. Every month the ovaries produce one egg which enters the fallopian tube for fertilization. Several tests are conducted on the woman to rule out any health problems. The woman harvesting her eggs is given hormone injections which helps in increasing the production of eggs. These injections are given continuously for 10-12 days. As the eggs become mature, the doctor determines the best time to remove them by checking the estrogen levels produced by the ovaries and the size of the follicles. The eggs are extracted with the help of a needle through the vagina. To make this process painless for the woman, she is given mild sedation.

After the eggs are extracted, they are placed in a liquid nitrogen substance which is called cryoprotectant. This liquid helps in freezing the eggs, thus preserving them. When the woman wants to become pregnant, the doctor thaws the egg and inserts a single sperm into it. When the egg is fertilized, the embryo is implanted into the uterus where it starts developing like a natural pregnancy. Though this process is a great way of delaying pregnancy, it may not be affordable for everyone as it is quite expensive. The harvesting procedure cost can be as high as $10,000 and the cost of storing the eggs is around $400 for each year.

There are some drawbacks of this method which one has to be aware of. One among these is that not all eggs taken out of the uterus will live through the freezing and thawing process. Also, the chances of becoming pregnant through this method is not 100%, especially when applied on women who are more than the age of 35 or 40. Nevertheless, medical experts are trying their best to improve the process so that it can help women have a baby in spite of infertility problems caused by age or some other health problems.
By Deepa Kartha
Published: 5/21/2010
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