Information about Egg Freezing
A woman’s fertility is at its highest in her mid twenties but, for many women having a baby at this stage of life is not an option. Many women are postponing having their family until later in life for various reasons; these can be medical, social or economic. Unfortunately, when a woman is older it is often harder to conceive and the chances of miscarriage are increased. This is because the number and quality of the eggs in the ovaries begins to decline in the mid thirties. This is a biological trend that we can do nothing about. However, it is now possible to freeze eggs at a younger age for use in later life.
By freezing her eggs when a woman is younger we can put them into “suspended animation” so that they don’t age with her. We know that the success of IVF in an older woman using eggs donated from a younger woman is dependent mostly on the age of the donor i.e. a ‘young’ egg is more healthy and fertile than an older egg and the resulting embryos have not only a higher potential to implant but a lower risk of chromosomal abnormalities and miscarriages. The effects of age on fertility is best illustrated by the national IVF figures, provided by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) showing how the success of IVF declines with increasing age. This trend also applies to natural conception.
The age of the egg is more important than the age of the woman.
The technology for freezing and thawing human eggs is relatively new but results so far are encouraging. Pregnancy rates using frozen and thawed eggs are now almost comparable with those using fresh eggs.
Who would want to freeze eggs?
Egg Freezing is suitable for several different groups of women:
- Those diagnosed with cancer who have not yet begun chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which is toxic to eggs, or who need surgery which will compromise fertility eg removal of ovaries
- Those who need to delay conception while receiving non-cancer medical treatment
- Those at risk of premature ovarian failure or early menopause
- Single women who wish to preserve their fertility until they meet the right partner
- Those who wish to delay having a family for personal reasons
- As an alternative to embryo freezing for patients who require IVF or ICSI treatment
What does the complete Egg Freezing and fertility treatment process involve? (tap title to read more)
The woman is prescribed fertility drugs to encourage the ovaries to produce more eggs than usual in a normal monthly cycle. This is usually a daily injection that the woman is required to take. The woman will be monitored carefully by our clinical team through regular ultrasound scans. Once the follicles around the eggs have grown to a required size a final injection is administered to help the ripening of the egg.
The eggs are collected under mild sedation and involves a fine hollow needle being passed by ultrasound guidance via the vagina. Eggs are placed into an incubator.
The eggs are carefully frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored.
When needed, the eggs are thawed.
Unless otherwise indicated the male partner will be asked to produce a semen sample on the day of egg thaw. This will be performed in our sperm production room.
Insemination of Sperm and Eggs
Thawed eggs have to be inseminated using the ICSI technique. This is because the process of freezing causes a hardening of the egg shell which makes natural fertilisation not possible.
If embryos (fertilised eggs) have developed they can then be transferred into your uterus. This procedure does not require sedation. The embryos can then begin growing as a normal pregnancy.
The final stage is then to take a pregnancy test approximately two weeks later.
How long can frozen eggs be stored?
Currently eggs can be stored for up to 10 years although the storage period can be extended in certain circumstances.
Is the Egg Freezing procedure safe?
The Egg Freezing procedure is licensed by the HFEA and is now well established in several clinics in the UK. Published results indicate that there is negligible damage to the egg during the procedure and post thaw survival rates of 80-100% can be expected. From the figures available to date, there does not appear to be any increase in chromosomal abnormalities or birth defects in children born from frozen eggs.
What are the success rates of Egg Freezing?
Published studies have shown that success rates after fertilisation are similar to those achieved using fresh eggs and pregnancy rates of up to 40% have been reported.
Is there an age limit for Egg Freezing?
The recommended age for Egg Freezing at Origin is 18 – 38 years, however exceptional cases outside this age range can be considered by the clinical team on an individual basis. As success rates are significantly influenced by a woman’s age each patient will be counselled regarding her individual chances of success.
What is the cost of Egg Freezing?
Egg Freezing is charged at each stage of treatment. There is a discount for 2nd and any subsequent Egg Freezing cycles. Ongoing storage of eggs is charged at £20 per month and is payable by direct debit. Egg Freezing costs and options will be fully discussed when you visit the clinic.
Supporting you throughout your Egg Freezing treatment
At Origin our team of professionals will be with you at every stage of the process and will explain any queries or concerns you may have. We aim to make the process as simple and pain free as possible for you as we understand and appreciate that this is a stressful time. For some patients, one cycle of IUI works first time, for other they may need to have multiple cycles. To support you in this journey we offer complimentary counselling with our fertility counsellor – Patricia McCrystal
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