Five important facts to consider when egg freezing

Many women consider delay having a family until later in their lives. Egg freezing gives women the option to preserve her fertility and become a biological parent in later life.

Age as an indicator for egg freezing

We know female fertility decreases with age. The decrease in quality and quantity of eggs carries on at a slower pace since birth. However, this decline gathers pace around the age of 35 years and further decreases rapidly in 40’s.

With age, an increasing proportion of eggs may have too few or too much genetic material (chromosomes) that leads to an abnormal embryo. This can reduce your chances of conceiving naturally or through fertility treatment. It also increases the risk of you experiencing a miscarriage.

These are five important facts women should consider before freezing their eggs:

The most important information you should know when egg freezing is the chance of having a baby per successfully thawed egg. The likelihood of having a baby per thawed egg:

  • For women less than 35 years of age, the likelihood is approximately 6-7%
  • From age 35-37 years, the likelihood declines to 4%
  • From age 38-40 years, the chance further declines to 3%
  • For women over the age of 40, women are only 1% likely to successfully  have a baby per thawed egg

The 6-7% rate of a baby per thawed egg is similar to the baby per egg if fresh donor eggs have been used for the treatment. Therefore, it is best suited if you are less than 35. If you are over 38 years, you should consider other options.

Some women suffer from a medical condition where the disease or the treatment can negatively affect their fertility. In this situation, you may wish to delay having a family. You should consider discussing this with your fertility specialist.

If you would ever entertain the possibility of the use of donor eggs, this should be considered at an early age.

If you decide to proceed with egg freezing, you will need fertility drugs to help the development of follicles. You will attend regular ultrasound scans and blood test as part of follicular tracking.

Once the eggs appear to be mature enough, you will undergo egg collection procedure. Egg collection is a minor surgical day procedure and is generally very safe. Once the eggs are collected, the cells surrounding the eggs are separated (stripped), and mature eggs are identified. These mature eggs are then flash frozen by a process called ‘Vitrification’.

When it is the time to use the eggs, you will have to take fertility drugs again. This is the same that would be done for a frozen embryo replacement cycle. The eggs are then thawed or defrosted a few days before planned transfer.

When using the thawed eggs, the eggs can only be inseminated using the procedure called Intracytoplasmic sperm insemination (ICSI). Each sperm is then assessed for suitability before injecting into each viable egg.

This is a difficult question and the answer would vary from patient to patient. Given the utilisation and loss of eggs in the process, this would be advised by your fertility specialist based on:

  • The ovarian reserve
  • Response to the drugs
  • Number of eggs retrieved
  • Your thoughts on the number of treatment attempts you’re willing to go through
In the United Kingdom, Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority (HFEA) allows storage for up to 10 years. Storage beyond 10 years is only for patients who have been or at risk of being infertile. These would be patients such as those who have been exposed to cancer treatments.