Egg freezing can give women the option to try starting a family when they are ready, without the pressure of the “biological clock”.
Egg freezing technology has developed rapidly in recent years and it has become fairly reliable as a form of treatment.
The most common reasons for a woman to have eggs frozen are:
- Before undergoing cancer treatment which could make her infertile
- If she is at risk of an early menopause
- She has not yet met the right partner but may wish to start a family in the future
What is involved in egg freezing?
If you choose to have your eggs frozen it will involve the same type of treatment as women having IVF. Drugs are used to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. 10-14 days after commencing treatment the eggs are collected using an ultrasound guided needle under sedation. This procedure typically takes 15-20 minutes.
Eggs which are mature (i.e. ready to be fertilised) can be frozen using a process called vitrification, an advanced technique which gives good survival rates. Eggs can normally be stored for up to 10 years.
When required for treatment your eggs are thawed and then fertilised using ICSI, a technique that involves injecting a single sperm into each egg. Resultant embryos are transferred to your uterus a maximum of two at a time.
How successful is egg freezing?
It is important for women to be realistic about their chances of conceiving using frozen eggs. Survival rates for eggs following freezing depend on the quality of the eggs before freezing, but on average about 75% of frozen eggs will survive the freeze-thaw process. Of the surviving eggs undergoing ICSI, on average 60% fertilise.
The use of frozen eggs is still a relatively new technique and as such it is difficult to provide any meaningful statistics regarding pregnancy rates. Success rates worldwide appear to be about 10% per attempt (rates quoted by individual clinics vary from 5% to up to 40%).
In practise we have had many patients who have benefited from egg freezing.
Can I freeze my eggs at any age?
Unfortunately, the usefulness of egg freezing diminishes with age. It is best undertaken before the age of 38, and preferably 36 or younger. There are two reasons for this; quality and quantity. Older eggs are less likely to produce a successful embryo, and also they are less likely to freeze well. Older women generally produce fewer eggs per cycle of stimulations, and not all eggs collected will be suitable for freezing.
To stand a realistic chance of having a baby from frozen eggs, quite a few need to be stored which may require more than one egg collection.
Free counselling is available if you are considering egg freezing. This gives you the opportunity to talk to an independent person about your concerns regarding storage of your eggs and their future use. If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment with our Counsellors, please do not hesitate to get in touch.