Recent media stories of Apple and Facebook paying for their female staff to freeze their eggs has once again brought egg freezing into the spotlight. But while some women wish to freeze their eggs to delay pregnancy, others may need to for infertility reasons.
Our approach at the Bridge Centre is to explore all of the options with each and every one of our patients depending on their individual medical history and age.
But for those of you looking to put motherhood on hold, when is it a good time to freeze your eggs and what does the procedure involve?
“It is important to remember not to view egg freezing as an absolute certainty that this will give women a guaranteed baby in the future. It should be part of a wider rethinking of female fertility and a family/work balance,” says Anya Sizer, Fertility Support Co-ordinator, at the Bridge Centre.
Age is a major factor in women’s fertility particularly in relation to the quality of their eggs. By the time a woman reaches 30 only about one eighth of their eggs remain and the quality of the eggs begins to decline. This level of decline significantly increases after the age of 35 and after the age of 42 conception with a woman’s own eggs becomes very difficult.
“Ideally, women should consider freezing their eggs before the age of 30, if not under 35, so that they have the best chance of succeeding with treatment using those frozen eggs in the future,” says Dr Shailaja Nair, the Deputy Clical Director at the Bridge Centre.
The first step in the process would be to consider a fertility health check. This involves a pelvic ultrasound scan to check your uterus and ovaries and an Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) blood test to assess your ovarian reserve. Based on this information and your medical history, one of our fertility specialists will talk you through your fertility and your options for egg freezing or other treatment.
The process for starting treatment is very similar to that of an IVF cycle. This involves a course of medication to stimulate your ovaries, which then allows us to collect a number of eggs. The eggs are collected using a fine needle attached to an ultrasound scan probe, this is passed into the ovary. The fluid from each follicle in your ovary is then removed and the embryologist will examine each follicle in search for eggs. As each egg is found it is placed in special fluid in a petri dish.
The eggs are then frozen using a technique called ‘vitrification’. This process cools the eggs at a very fast rate in high concentrations of freeze-protecting solution. The egg is very quickly transformed to a glass-like state (i.e. ‘vitrifies’).
Egg freezing is still a relatively new procedure and the number of women coming back to thaw their frozen eggs are in small numbers. Success rates for these women are good, however, this is dependent on the woman’s age, the quality of the thawed eggs (which will be slightly lower than fresh eggs) and other factors such as the quality of her partner’s sperm or donor sperm.
Tracey Sainsbury, the Bridge Centre’s resident fertility counsellor, adds, “Thinking about fertility at a time when you’re not planning on parenting can be confusing, if not prior to freezing, sometimes during or after a treatment cycle.” For these reasons women considering freezing their eggs can have a routine appointment with Tracey and ongoing support from the clinic throughout the process.
If you’re considering having a baby at some time in the future, but concerned about your fertility, you may be interested in a Female Reproductive Health Assessment. For more information and to book your appointment, please contact 020 3819 3282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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