Egg Storage (Egg Freezing)
The procedure of retrieving eggs to then freeze them is not as simple and straightforward as semen production since the woman has to undergo the initial phase of the traditional IVF treatment using medications in order to make supernumerary eggs and then retrieving the eggs.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is the process of retrieving a stimulated group of healthy eggs from your ovaries and freezing them, keeping them stored at a fertility clinic to use in any future fertility attempts. The process of egg freezing typically lasts just under two weeks and starts with 8-11 days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries into producing multiple eggs in one cycle.
Throughout this period, you’ll be expected to attend 5-7 visits to your specialist for blood tests and transvaginal ultrasound exams to see if any adjustments need to be made to your hormone dosage.
Finally, the last part of the procedure is having your eggs retrieved from your ovaries whilst under a mild anaesthetic. The aim is to collect around 15 healthy eggs, which lasts about 15 minutes. Then later in life, if you want to use these eggs for fertility treatment, they can be thawed and those which have survived intact will be injected with your partner or a donor’s sperm. In the UK, the amount of time that your eggs can remain frozen is 10 years.
Advantages of egg freezing
Quite simply, freezing your eggs at a younger age gives you the security blanket of knowing you’re preserving your options and giving yourself another attempt should you have problems conceiving naturally later in life. Careers, finances and relationships might mean that you’re not ready to start thinking about having children now, but you might want to have that option later. Freezing your eggs helps to buy you a bit more time and can give you more choices in the future.
Is egg freezing for me?
Freezing your eggs is a personal choice and it’s completely up to you. Evidence suggests that the best time for a woman to freeze their eggs is in their early 20s, and the success rate is best as long as it’s before the age of 37. You should make sure that you have the finances to pay for it, including an annual storage fee to keep your eggs frozen. You will also have to pay for fertility treatments in the future, such as IVF.
One of the positives of freezing your eggs is giving yourself the option of waiting until you’ve truly decided it’s the right time for you to start a family. However, egg freezing shouldn’t be looked at as a ‘definite’ solution, just a helpful additional aid.
Success rates for egg freezing
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reports that the live birth rate per transferred embryo for women who have had their eggs frozen is 19%. However, a report from the Centre of Reproductive and Genetic Health stated in 2018 that the survival rate of a frozen egg using new vitrification methods was 85%, with pregnancy rates of 27%. Whilst these success rates have improved significantly in recent years, it is important to know that egg freezing does not guarantee a baby in the future.