Mature oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, is a powerful choice for women and couples looking to keep their options open. If you’re waiting for a better point in your career before you start a family, have a medical condition that may affect fertility, or simply haven’t decided if you want children yet, egg freezing could give you much-needed peace of mind.
The best time to freeze eggs is before the age of 35, as egg reserves decline with age – but the service may still be useful if you are older.
At BCRM, we expect over 90% of eggs to survive when thawed, thanks to our use of modern vitrification techniques. There has never been a better time to consider egg freezing – but it’s important to consider the legal, ethical, and practical factors before you commit.
Why Should I Freeze My Eggs?
Freezing your eggs is a convenient way to open up your options of starting a family in the future. By freezing your eggs it allows you far more control over your fertility – especially as both the number of your eggs and their quality decline with age.
You may decide to freeze your eggs if you:1
- Have a family history of premature menopause – where a mother or sister have stopped ovulating and menstruating before the age of 40.
- Are about to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy due to cancer and you’ve been warned the treatment can reduce your number of eggs.
- Want children one day, but are currently more focussed on your career.
- Are not yet in a relationship, or need more time to decide if or when to start your family.
- Have ovarian or reproductive system problems such as reoccurring ovarian cysts, or severe endometriosis.
- Have sickle cell anaemia or an autoimmune disease that can affect your fertility.
- Are about to undergo surgery to remove your ovaries or eggs.
- Have a rheumatic condition that requires chemotherapy treatment that could damage your ovaries.
- Are a transgender man, and want to start a family in the future – using a gestational carrier.
As you can see, there are many reasons you may choose to freeze your eggs. Egg freezing gives you more freedom and flexibility when it comes to your future plans.
How Are Eggs Extracted for Freezing?
In order to harvest your eggs, we need to stimulate your ovaries to gain a good number of eggs. Usually, a follicle (egg sac) on one of your ovaries releases an egg once a month, at the time of ovulation. We require a larger number of eggs in order to increase your chances of pregnancy in the future.
Over one to two weeks, you take medication to stimulate your ovaries, and we monitor the progress with regular ultrasound scans.2 When your ovaries have created a number of follicles, we collect your eggs under anaesthetic sedation – a simple procedure that allows you to return to normal activities after a few hours.3 We can extract up to 20 eggs per cycle, but we recommend you have more than one cycle of stimulation treatment if you have a low reserve.
Going through ovarian stimulation can often bring up deep feelings around starting a family. You are entitled to free counselling sessions if you need to discuss the emotional impact of the treatment.
Important points to keep in mind when considering Egg Freezing:
- The best age to freeze eggs is before 35, but it’s possible to harvest eggs if you’re in your late thirties or older than 40.
- Not all women have eggs that are suitable for freezing.
- Allowing for your ovarian reserve, we may only be able to collect a limited number of eggs.
- Occasionally it is not possible to collect any eggs.
- If you have cancer, we can’t tell if it has an effect on your eggs.
- One cycle of stimulation treatment may not yield enough eggs to achieve a pregnancy in the future.
- At BCRM we offer 3 cycles of ovarian stimulation and egg collection for the cost of 2 cycles.
How Freezing Eggs Works
At BCRM we take pride in our high professional standards when freezing eggs – always using the most up-to-date and safe procedure. When we freeze your eggs, we “flash-freeze” them in our storage tanks, which is the best way to freeze them while preserving their function. We use an advanced vitrification technique at a temperature of -196°C, which prevents your eggs from ageing.4
Your eggs are kept in a number of sealed straws so that they can be used efficiently to achieve a pregnancy in the future. We follow strict laboratory checking procedures to ensure every sample is clearly marked for future identification. Frozen eggs stored this way don’t deteriorate with time, but we cannot give an absolute guarantee of safe long-term storage.
Your eggs are only thawed with your consent – in a highly controlled lab environment, ready for fertilisation with sperm.
What Else Do I Need to Consider When Freezing My Eggs?
The storage and disposal of eggs raise important ethical issues, so before your eggs are stored you need to have read and understood all the information provided here. At BCRM we provide the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any issues with one of our specialists.
Before the procedure, you are required to sign consent forms for the storage and future use of your eggs. If you change your mind at any time you can change your consent by contacting us.
Egg, sperm, and embryo storage is governed by specific legislation. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) permit the storage of eggs for a maximum of 10 years in the UK.5 So while egg freezing can buy you some time, it’s wise to have a plan in place for the best time to use your eggs.
All possible precautions and safeguards are in place but a failure of the storage system can occur and we cannot give an absolute guarantee of safe long-term storage.
What Do I Do with My Frozen Eggs?
When you’re ready to use your stored eggs you can:
- If you conceive naturally and have a baby, you may not need your stored eggs any longer.
- Arrange an appointment with us to discuss your individual options when using your stored eggs.
- Opt for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – a form of IVF treatment. As your eggs were at different stages of maturity at the time of collection, this procedure is the best way to create embryos prior to implantation.
We cannot guarantee that your stored eggs can result in embryo creation, successful implantation, or pregnancy. Although we pride ourselves on our high survival rate of eggs once thawed, there is always a risk of the freezing and thawing process having a detrimental effect on your eggs.
If you’re interested in freezing your eggs in the UK and would like to find out more about your fertility options, get in touch with us at BCRM by emailing us or giving us a call on 0117 3018605 to book an appointment.
or Visit our Egg Freezing webpage: FertilityBristol.com/fertility-treatments/egg-freezing-2/