Are you wondering or unsure if egg freezing is the right option for you?
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a reproductive technique available at the Herts & Essex Fertility Centre that gives women the opportunity to preserve their fertility. Eggs can be safely stored in liquid nitrogen for many years, enabling you to use them for treatment in the future. This may be when you have met the right partner or you are financially and emotionally ready to start a family.
Is egg freezing for me?
Fertility, unfortunately, decreases as we get older, and so your chance of a successful pregnancy with frozen eggs is higher if your eggs are frozen at an early reproductive age. The decline in the success of fertility treatment with advancing age is a reflection of a decreasing ovarian reserve when you produce fewer numbers of eggs and eggs of a poorer quality. Blood levels of a hormone, AMH, is an indicator of your ovarian reserve. For this reason, we can only offer egg freezing if your AMH result is greater than 2.5 and this must be before your 45th birthday. You must be aware that between the age of 40-45, your chance of a successful pregnancy using frozen eggs is significantly lower.
Medical egg freezing
Egg freezing can be an option to consider for fertility preservation if you are at risk of premature ovarian failure, premature menopause or due to undergo surgery to remove your ovaries.
Egg freezing can also preserve your fertility if you are undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Your oncologist may recommend freezing your eggs prior to commencing cancer treatment as the intensive treatment could irreversibly damage your ovaries and impair your fertility.
Social egg freezing
Elective egg freezing (also known as social egg freezing) is fertility preservation for non-medical or non-emergency reasons. Many women in the UK are choosing to start their families later in life. Therefore the option of freezing your eggs at a young reproductive age and preserving your fertility is an increasingly attractive option. Elective egg freezing allows you the opportunity to plan your family for a convenient time in your life without the concern that your fertility may be impaired as you grow older.
How long can my eggs be stored for?
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), the regulatory body in the UK permits eggs to be stored for ten years. However in exceptional circumstances, if there is a risk that your fertility may be impaired, your clinician will be able to discuss extending the storage of your eggs beyond ten years.
Is it safe to store my eggs and are there any risks?
The storage of embryos has been performed successfully for years with studies demonstrating that there are no long-term detrimental effects following embryo freezing. It is important to remember that in comparison to embryo freezing, egg freezing is still a relatively new technology. Current data indicate that egg freezing does not increase the chance of birth defects or congenital abnormalities. However, more long-term studies into the safety of egg freezing are definitely needed.
At Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, all of our frozen gametes and embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks connected to a sophisticated temperature monitoring system to provide you with peace of mind.
There is a very small risk associated, but as with any fertility treatment, the use of fertility drugs can give rise to ovarian hyperstimulation (OHSS). Our clinicians will be able to discuss this with you in greater detail.
Is it successful?
Several hundred healthy babies have been born worldwide following egg freezing, however, only a small percentage of these babies are from the UK. Eggs in the UK can remain in long-term storage for many years before they are thawed for use, which makes it very difficult to assess the chance of a successful pregnancy. Scientific studies worldwide on egg freezing in large egg donation programmes show excellent survival rates post-thaw and fertilisation rates are equivalent to fresh cycles. The likelihood of success will be determined primarily by your age and the quality of your eggs when frozen.
What is involved in egg freezing?
At the initial appointment, a consultant will discuss details of the treatment with you, and ensure that egg freezing is a suitable option for you. As with all fertility treatment, you will have routine screening for infectious diseases and provide written consent for storing your eggs. You will have ample opportunity to discuss your treatment thoroughly with our highly experienced team and if necessary, a consultation with a specialist counsellor will be arranged so that you fully understand the implications of freezing your eggs.
Your fertility treatment will entail the use of artificial hormone stimulation to help produce eggs. The daily hormone injections will stimulate your ovaries to produce several follicles which may contain eggs, and their growth will be monitored by ultrasound scans. When the follicles have reached the optimum size you will be booked for egg collection, a day case procedure in which your eggs are removed from the follicles by the clinician. The procedure is performed by ultrasound guidance and under conscious sedation. The embryologist will identify the eggs in the fluid the consultant removes from your follicles and store them safely in an incubator in the laboratory before preparing them for freezing. Only mature eggs can be frozen.
How are eggs frozen and will my eggs survive the freezing process?
At the Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, we freeze eggs using a technique called Vitrification. This is a rapid freezing technique that will rapidly dehydrate and freeze the eggs preventing the formation of intracellular ice crystals which would otherwise damage the eggs during the freezing process. Many fertility centres routinely freezing eggs have reported exceptional survival rates of 70-90%.
How are the eggs used?
When you are ready to start your family, you will be commenced on medication to prepare your uterus; to make sure that the uterus is synchronised and ready to receive an embryo created from your fertilised egg. The eggs are thawed in the laboratory via a process called ‘warming’ in which the egg is rapidly warmed, rehydrated and the freezing solution is removed. Freezing hardens the shell of the egg slightly and therefore ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) is routinely recommended to maximise the chance of fertilisation. ICSI involves the injection of a single sperm directly into the egg. The injected eggs are observed 16-18 hours following the ICSI procedure for signs of fertilisation. Following fertilisation, the embryos are cultured in the laboratory and an embryologist will update you daily on their development, to guide you as when to return for your embryo transfer.
If you wish to discuss egg freezing with any member of our fertility team, please contact us on 01992 78 50 60 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.