In recent years, various celebrities have announced their choice to freeze their eggs while they are young in order to preserve their fertility. This has made the concept somewhat fashionable and widening information on the subject and better access to affordable treatment make the whole concept seem more feasible to a range of women. However, like any life choice, there are benefits, drawbacks and accompanying considerations.
Most benefits of egg freezing are simply common sense due to egg quality declining after the peak in fertility. If eggs from your 20s are used when you are in your 30s or 40s, it improves your chance of conception and reduces the risk of genetic abnormality. For some, it can provide relief from the pressure of their ‘biological clock’, and allow them to focus on other things with peace of mind.
There is also the fact that your frozen eggs are solely your own, unlike frozen embryos, which have the risk of legally not being available for use if a partner doesn’t consent.
Choosing the right clinic and freezing method can boost your chances of successful a freeze and thaw. The vitrification method, used by TFP, is the latest method with the best survival rates. This is because it minimises ice crystal formation in the eggs, which would otherwise harm them irreversibly.
Egg freezing is only relevant to women who fulfil certain criteria: those who have enough ovarian reserve, respond to stimulation and are young enough to provide good quality eggs.
In order to collect the eggs, the patient will generally need to undergo hormonal stimulation, similar to standard IVF treatment, to maximise the egg numbers. They will then have a minor surgical procedure to collect the eggs.
It is unlikely that all the eggs will survive freezing and retain good quality, lowering the total number that you can use.
Once thawed, the eggs still need to be successfully fertilised (whether through partner or donor sperm), and it is highly unlikely all will become viable embryos.
Due to the above drawbacks, despite constant improvements in success rates, frozen eggs do not guarantee the birth of a healthy child.
While egg freezing can preserve fertility, generally the expiry for storage and consents is ten years, which creates a new deadline on top of that of the ‘biological clock’. You may have seen that this is being discussed in Parliament, and may soon change. If the storage limit is extended beyond ten years, it should allow more flexibility in people’s choices when considering egg freezing.
Frozen eggs also mean that when you wish to conceive, you will need to undergo treatment with us, and should consider the time and money that will need to be set aside for it. However, this will be minimal compared to standard IVF treatment, as much of the process will have been completed years before at the point of freezing.
Some patients may wish to take advantage of our counselling service to ensure they are prepared for the process and are fully informed and confident in their decision.