Want the career now and the family later? Egg freezing could be the way to delay having babies. You freeze your eggs while they’re at their peak, to be used later. But are there downsides, does it work and what else do you need to know? We investigate…
WHAT IS EGG FREEZING?
Dr Amin Gorgy is a fertility consultant at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy. “As women become older, their chances of getting pregnant begin to decrease. This decline starts after the mid-30s and becomes even more pronounced over the age of 40.
Freezing your eggs at a stage in your life when the ovaries are capable of producing high quality eggs is therefore a sensible option for fertility treatment in future years. Egg freezing is considered a back-up insurance policy.”
WHAT DOES THE PROCESS ENTAIL?
“Egg freezing is the process of collecting eggs from a woman’s ovaries and freezing them for future use, in essence capturing the woman’s fertility at that particular point in time, if she isn’t yet ready to have children. Egg freezing involves the same principles as IVF, that means your ovaries are stimulated with injections that will make them produce several eggs in one go.
When these are mature, they are collected via a short operative procedure that involves using a needle into the vagina and then the ovaries, to collect all of the eggs. Once frozen, they can later be thawed, fertilised and used to create embryos that can then be used for implantation and hopefully give rise to a baby,” says Dr Larisa Corda, a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist and fertility expert.
WHEN IS IT BEST DONE?
“A woman’s age at the time of egg freezing is crucial to the chance of successful pregnancy using the eggs and so the earlier eggs can be frozen, the better. The quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs start to decline with age, and for those over 35, the eggs will already be deteriorating at the time of freezing.
Aside from increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s Syndrome, this means less chance of a successful IVF cycle once the eggs have been thawed.
It is recommended that egg freezing is carried out before the age of 35. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) states that women looking to freeze their eggs to preserve their fertility potential should do so before the age of 35 for a better chance of having children later on in life,” Dr Gorgy says.
“Not surprisingly, the highest live birth rates from previously frozen eggs are shown to come from women who undergo the procedure before they are 30. However, the average age at which women freeze their eggs is around 37. Many women are closer to 40 by the time they consider doing this,” Dr Corda says.