Who might benefit from egg freezing?
The most common reasons for women to have their eggs frozen are:
- Women about to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- Women at risk of an early menopause.
- Couples undergoing IVF treatment who have ethical or religious concerns over embryo freezing.
- Women who are yet to meet the right partner but may wish to start a family in the future
- Couples undergoing IVF treatment where for some reason there is a problem obtaining a sperm sample.
What is involved?
If you chose 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, and a few weeks after commencing treatment the eggs are collected using an ultrasound guided needle. Eggs which are mature (i.e. ready to be fertilised) can be frozen using a process called vitrification. Eggs can normally be stored for up to 10 years.
When required for treatment your eggs are thawed and then fertilised using intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a technique that involves injecting a single sperm into each egg. Resultant embryos are transferred to your uterus at 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 70% of patient eggs frozen will survive the freeze-thaw process. Of the surviving eggs undergoing ICSI we hope about 60% will 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 30%).
Free counselling is available if you are considering egg freezing. This gives you the opportunity to discuss with an independent person your concerns regarding storage of your eggs and their future use.