What is Egg Freezing?
Egg Freezing is a procedure that allows people to preserve their fertility by undergoing treatment similar to the first part of an IVF cycle. They are given medication to stimulate the growth and maturation of eggs on the ovaries and then these eggs are collected in a minor surgical procedure, transferred to the embryology laboratory and frozen for future use. They remain the age at which they were frozen, despite the passage of time.
Why are women choosing to freeze their eggs?
We have in recent years improved our technology for oocyte freezing so pregnancy success rates from frozen eggs are significantly better than they used to be. It’s now a really valid option for women who are concerned about declining fertility with age but don’t have the opportunity to start a family straight away.
Also, we need to remember that there are medical reasons for egg freezing as well. Some people need to undergo medical or surgical treatments that will limit or remove their future fertility so the chance to have eggs collected and frozen gives them the chance to conceive a pregnancy once they have recovered from their treatment.
Is it effective?
It is certainly improving all the time. In the past it was quite an experimental process and the freezing technique had the potential to damage the eggs and so pregnancy rates after thawing were low. Nowadays we have new freezing technology that doesn’t cause ice crystals to form. It is much better for the eggs and we are seeing excellent ongoing pregnancy rates from frozen eggs.
What sort of costs are involved and what is the process?
An egg freeze cycle costs around $5000 for the medication, the procedure and the monitoring. Ongoing storage costs around $400 a year. A person who is interested in discussing egg freezing can contact an IVF clinic, make an appointment with a specialist and discuss their options. The actual cycle takes about two weeks. During that time you can work and act normally, but you take medications and have about three monitoring appointments at the clinic. The procedure to collect the eggs is very straightforward and performed under sedation so it’s not painful. The person can go home afterwards and return to work the next day.
How long can eggs be frozen safely?
At least ten years and probably 15-20 years. Remember that the age of the person who undergoes the egg collection is the age of the eggs when they are thawed. So if you freeze your eggs at 30 and conceive at 39, your eggs behave like the eggs of a 30 year old. This has all sorts of benefits for things like miscarriage risk, which is much lower in younger eggs.