Fertility Clinics and Egg Freezing: Nitrogen Use and How to Remain Safe
For women who want to have children when the time is right, egg freezing is a viable option and one that has become more popular in recent years. As an abundance of fertility clinics pop up nationwide, it is important to consider the safety implications of IVF, egg freezing, and fertility clinics. Dive into the world of fertility clinics to understand how eggs remain viable — sometimes for years after harvesting — and what risks the environment holds.
How Do Fertility Clinics Harvest and Store Eggs?
During the monthly menstrual cycle, women release a viable egg. In the fertility harvesting process, IVF clinicians administer hormones that increase egg production so they can harvest and store multiple eggs in a one-time procedure.
Doctors first administer hormone injections to inflate egg production prior to harvesting and storage. Three days after the final injection, the eggs are ready for harvesting. At this point, female patients then have eggs harvested from their ovaries using needles. Now the patient’s role is simply to leave the eggs at the IVF facility until she wishes to be inseminated.
Traditionally, eggs were frozen for long-term storage, then thawed out when patients wanted to use the eggs. This method worked, but had a suboptimal success rate during IVF.
A new method, termed vitrification, increases the success rate of egg freezing for in vitro fertilization. Vitrification uses a flash freezing process to quickly freeze the eggs for long-term storage. After the eggs have frozen, they are then stored inside tanks of liquid nitrogen until they are needed. The new method reduces the formation of ice crystals, which can damage the egg during the thawing out.
The main risk that doctors counsel patients on is the chance that some or all of the eggs will perish in the process. Freezing of eggs is still a relatively new procedure. However, there is a greater risk involved. One that could affect female patients, their eggs, and fertility clinic staff: The risk of liquid nitrogen exposure.
Nitrogen Warnings in the Fertility Clinic Setting
Liquid nitrogen is perfectly safe as long as it remains in storage tanks. If even a single tank were to develop a leak, and the substance were to spill out into the fertility clinic, a lot more would be at stake than the viability of stored eggs for in vitro fertilization.
Nitrogen has the potential to deplete oxygen from an environment. At first, this may cause discomfort, dizziness, or confusion. As the leak continues and displaces more oxygen from the room, staff can asphyxiate. Since the gas cannot be seen or smelled, employees will not know something is wrong until it is too late and lives are lost.
For the safety of clinic staff, an oxygen deficiency monitor can be installed near the liquid nitrogen tank. This monitor takes periodic readings of the oxygen levels in the room. When everything is working properly and the oxygen is within the normal range, the monitor remains silent yet vigilant. In a worst case scenario where a nitrogen leak does develop, the O2 monitor will sound an alert once the oxygen in the room falls below acceptable levels. The alarm gives staff enough notice to escape the premises before being overcome by the lack of oxygen.
Like a carbon monoxide detector, an oxygen deficiency monitor does not really do anything until something goes wrong but can save lives in the event of an emergency. As with a carbon monoxide detector, it is important to select and install a quality O2 monitor.
The latest generation of oxygen monitors from PureAire come with a zirconium sensor, which requires no calibration or maintenance. Staff can install the O2 monitor in the IVF facility and remain assured that it will work for a period of 10 years with no maintenance of any kind.
For a reliable oxygen deficiency monitor, look to PureAire, a company with over 15 years of experience in the field. Learn more about PureAire’s products at www.pureairemonitoring.com.