There was plenty of debate in the media recently when it emerged that tech giants such as Apple and Egg are offering egg freezing as a ‘benefit’ for their female employees, and we’re seeing increasing numbers of women asking us here about the options.
I’m on the front line of fertility and the questions I’m asked here are not been motivated by the wish to delay fertility, but instead by a desire to feel that there will still be more options open further down the line. The average age of women becoming pregnant in the UK has been steadily increasing and there are a variety of reasons for this – not just the pursuit of a career, but also financial and relationship security. Gone are the days when you could get on the property ladder at 22 and likewise, the average age of marriage is also increasing. Quite simply, the world has changed and as a result, many women aren’t in a place to even think about children until they are much older than their own mothers were.
It is clear that more and more women will be exploring egg freezing if they have reached their thirties but don’t feel ready for children yet or have not yet met the right partner.
There are many factors to consider when considering egg freezing. It is important is to take into account your age (egg freezing is certainly more successful if done when a woman is under 37) and your egg reserves so that you are aware of your general fertility status. It is so important to realise that freezing your eggs does not always assure you will have a baby. There are many hurdles to overcome between freezing your eggs and giving birth.
SO WHAT IS INVOLVED IN EGG FREEZING?
Every woman is an individual and has individual requirements when it comes to fertility. You may be at the stage of collecting information or undecided and want to know your options, or understand the process. At the Clinic we help come up with a plan of action and a time frame for you.
Egg Reserve Assessment
You will have an ovarian reserve assessment which is a blood test that looks at a substance called anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) which indicates how many eggs you have.
This can be done as part of our Fertility MOT, but we would recommend having the test as part of your overall consultation so that a full plan of action can be drawn up.
Many women are unaware that they will have to undergo a similar process to IVF to collect their eggs. To collect the eggs your ovaries need to be stimulated. You produce lots of eggs in any one month during a natural cycle but only one egg is usually released. For egg freezing the aim is to produce a larger number of eggs to be gathered. Egg collection involves sedation under a light anaesthetic. The eggs are collected vaginally using ultrasound guidance and you will not be aware of the process.
Once collected, the eggs are assessed by the embryologist for suitability and they are then frozen by “vitrification”, which is a fast freezing method we know to be the most successful.
Once you are ready to use your eggs, an egg is thawed very slowly and inseminated with sperm. Following Fertilisation, it developes into an embryo and is inserted into your uterus.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF EGG FREEZING
1. Egg freezing is a way to preserve your fertility which provides some reassurance if you find yourself approaching your late 30’s / 40’s.
2. Younger eggs are typically more chromosomally normal.
3. If you find yourself in a position in your late 30’s / 40’s to get pregnant, you will be using your own genetic material.
4. You have not needed to turn to an egg donor which can be a more challenging psychological journey for all concerned. I’ll be discussing this in a forthcoming article.
5. There are no indications of any health issues with successful births through this technique
1. Egg freezing doesn’t always guarantee a baby. Eggs do not always survive the thawing process.
2. As with any surgical procedure there is always a risk, however small.
3. The usual risks associated with IVF although rare will also apply to egg freezing such as hyper stimulation of the ovaries’.
4. In delaying motherhood there can be social and other implications for older mothers.
5. So far there have not been enough live births in the UK to be able to assess success satisfactorily but early indications suggest a 30 – 50% success rate. Success is influenced by the eggs themselves and how they cope with the thawing process but also the women’s age, the number of eggs removed and how successful the fertilisation process is.
6. Currently the HFEA will allow frozen eggs to be stored for ten years only, after which a medical certificate has to be granted to allow continued storage but this only applies if you are deemed to be prematurely infertile.
If you are thinking about egg freezing, the starting point is to discuss the option in more detail. Arrange a consultation with our Lead Fertility Nurse Terri Morgan-Collins and she will guide you through all the steps and answer any questions you may have.
- Going Behind the Headlines