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Egg Freezing – More Common Than You May Think

Elective egg freezing can help you preserve your fertility.

Egg freezing originated for patients undergoing cancer treatment. However, today the use of egg freezing for social reasons is becoming more popular.  You may even know someone who has already undergone the treatment.  In fact, according to the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (no data available in Australia), egg freezing is the fastest growing fertility treatment type.

This may be because women or couples have focused on a career, financial stability, study, or more commonly, just haven’t found the right partner. Whether you are in your 20’s or approaching your 40’s, elective egg freezing can help you preserve your fertility.  It also gives you peace of mind knowing that you have done all you can to maximise your chance of having a baby in the future. 

Females are born with their total number of eggs. No more are produced throughout their lifetime.   Fertility peaks in the early to mid 20’s, for most women. This is followed by a steady decline until her mid 30’s. There is a rapid decline after 35 until menopause. By the age of 40, approximately 90% of eggs produced by a woman are abnormal. Unfortunately, for some women, the only option to have a baby is using donor eggs or embryos.

Female age is by far the largest determining factor to achieving a successful pregnancy and live birth (baby).  Therefore, it is extremely important that women understand their reproductive health. You can discuss options with your GP or a fertility specialist to ensure that when you are ready to start a family, your fertility is preserved.  Although you may not be ready now, freezing your eggs NOW gives you options in the future.

What is Egg Freezing?

Vitrification (or freezing) is the technology used for freezing eggs. The goal of egg freezing is to attempt to preserve some fertility in women at risk of declining fertility. It is not a guarantee that pregnancy or a baby will result from the use of this technology.

Unlike a woman who continues to age, the eggs that have been frozen when she was 32 stay the same age that they were when they were frozen. What does all this mean? It means that a woman freezing her eggs at 32 who then wants a baby at 40 has a much higher chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby using her 32-year-old frozen eggs than she would if she were to try with her 40-year-old eggs.

To achieve a pregnancy or livebirth, a woman will need between 10-40 eggs vitrified.  The number of eggs required will vary based on your age and medical history.  This means that more than one IVF cycle may be required to get adequate numbers of eggs for freezing.

Do I need to consider Egg Freezing?

If you have concerns about your fertility it is important to discuss this with your GP or a fertility specialist.  There is a blood test known as the egg timer test (AMH) that can check your ovarian or egg reserves. Your doctor will advise you of the results and discuss risk factors based on your history and age. This can help you decide if egg freezing is a good option to consider.

Women and couples who are faced with the following may find egg freezing suitable for them:

  • Advancing female age; women who are in their early to mid-30’s who have to delay having children because of the lack of a stable relationship
  • Women who wish to delay having children until their late 30’s for reasons other than not having a suitable partner (ie. Career, travel or financial reasons)
  • Treatment of medical conditions that may leave a woman unable to have children (i.e. cancer treatment).

How are eggs frozen and stored?

All eggs collected undergo a freezing process and are stored in liquid nitrogen at Fertility Solutions. They can be stored indefinitely once frozen. However, the storage of eggs is regulated through the National Health and Medical Council’s (NHMRC) Ethical Guidelines along with clinic policy.  Fertility Solutions policy is that eggs can be stored for a maximum of 15 years. This includes 10 years, plus a 5-year extension period.

How will the eggs be collected?

A woman considering freezing her eggs would need to go through an IVF cycle. This consists of stimulating the ovaries with specific hormone injections designed to make the ovaries produce an increased number of eggs, rather than the one egg that is normally produced per month. The egg collection procedure is performed as a day procedure either in a hospital under a local or general anaesthetic or at the clinic under light sedation. You can generally expect to leave the clinic after about an hour or the hospital after 4 hours of the procedure.

Fertility Solutions offer free consultations with a Fertility Nurse to discuss egg freezing and your reproductive health – Book your appointment today.