WHAT IS EGG FREEZING?
- Egg freezing is one way of preserving a woman’s fertility so she can try to have a family in the future. It involves collecting a woman’s eggs, freezing them and then thawing them later on so they can be used in fertility treatment.
- A woman’s chances of conceiving naturally fall as she gets older because the quality and number of her eggs drops. Egg freezing can be an attempt to preserve fertility by freezing the eggs when the woman is young and the eggs are of the highest quality.
IS EGG FREEZING RIGHT FOR ME?
- You might want to consider freezing your eggs if:
- You have a medical condition or need treatment for a medical condition that will affect your fertility, such as cancer (in this case NHS funding may be available depending on where you live).
- You’re worried about your fertility declining but you’re not ready to have a child or you haven’t found the right partner – this is often called ‘elective egg freezing’.
- You’re at risk of injury or death (for example, you’re a member of the Armed Forces who is being deployed to a war zone).
- If you're a female transitioning to a male, you may want to preserve your fertility before you start hormone therapy or have reconstructive surgery. Both treatments can lead to the partial or total loss of your fertility.
- You don’t want to have leftover embryos after IVF treatment for ethical reasons.
WHAT DOES EGG FREEZING INVOLVE?
- Firstly, you'll need to be tested for any infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis. This has no bearing on whether you can freeze your eggs or not, but is to ensure that affected egg samples are stored separately to prevent contamination of other samples.
- You'll then start the IVF process, which usually takes around two to three weeks to complete. Normally this will involve taking drugs to boost your egg production and help the eggs mature. When they’re ready, they’ll be collected whilst you’re under general anesthetic or sedation.
- At this point, instead of mixing the eggs with sperm (as in conventional IVF) a cryoprotectant (freezing solution) will be added to protect the eggs. The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. Latest statistics show that vitrification is more successful than the slow cooling method.
- Most women will have around 15 eggs collected although this isn’t always possible for women with low ovarian reserves (low numbers of eggs). When you want to use them, the eggs will be thawed and those that have survived intact will be injected with your partner’s or donor’s sperm.