Eggs don’t have to be used for IVF right away after they have been collected. Instead, you can choose to freeze your eggs so that they can be used to help you to get pregnant in the future.
Egg freezing is a procedure that can enable women to preserve their fertility even if their ovaries stop being able to produce new eggs. The process works in a similar way to IVF, but instead of fertilising the eggs right away, they are frozen for future use.
Women who decide to freeze their eggs will need to take medication to stimulate the release of multiple mature eggs. The eggs will then be collected from the ovaries with a needle and carefully frozen. If the eggs are used in the future then the IVF procedure will be completed and the resulting embryos transferred into the womb.
Eggs are usually frozen if you want to preserve your fertility so that you will be able to try to have children in the future. You may decide to freeze your eggs if you are about to have a medical treatment that could affect your fertility or if you need to have your ovaries removed. You might also be interested in freezing your eggs if you aren’t ready to have children yet and you want to give yourself the best chance of conceiving when you are.
Fertility declines with age as the quality and number of eggs that are available will drop. Freezing some of your eggs will ensure that some are available when you want to try for a baby, if you aren’t able to conceive naturally at that time. Women over 40 who have IVF using frozen or donor eggs have a higher success rate than those using eggs that have been freshly collected from their ovaries.
It’s important to discuss the decision to freeze your eggs in detail with your doctor so that you understand the risks and chances of success. Another option you might want to consider is freezing embryos created by IVF, if you are in a stable relationship or you are willing to use donor sperm. Frozen embryos can be more stable than frozen eggs, but you may prefer to preserve your eggs so that you will be able to freely choose the father in the future. You will have complete control over what happens to the eggs you have frozen.
Although freezing your eggs can help to preserve your fertility, it is important to be aware of the limitations of this procedure. The number of eggs that can be collected for freezing is limited. Some or all of the eggs might not survive the freezing and thawing processes. The eggs that do survive might not result in successful pregnancies after they are fertilised and transferred into the womb. Egg freezing can enable you to take more control over your future fertility, but it cannot guarantee that you will be able to get pregnant.
Eggs are collected for freezing in the same way as for IVF treatment. The main difference is in the delay before the eggs will be fertilised and used. You will need to take medication to stimulate your ovaries to release more mature eggs than usual, so that we can collect as many as possible. The eggs will be collected using a fine needle and then carefully frozen and stored.
When you are ready to use the eggs, they will be carefully thawed and checked. The eggs will need to be fertilised in vitro (outside your body). You will then go through the same stages of IVF as you would when using freshly collected eggs. The eggs and sperm will be combined so that fertilisation can take place. The ICSI procedure is typically used for frozen eggs. It involves injecting single sperm cells into each egg to maximise the chances of successful fertilisation. The resulting embryos will be allowed to develop for a while. The best quality embryos will then be selected and transferred into your womb. Any remaining embryos can be frozen for use in further cycles of IVF.
The costs of collecting and using frozen eggs will be similar to those of the normal IVF procedure. However, there will be additional costs for storing the eggs. You will usually be charged an annual fee for as long as you want to keep the eggs frozen.
Egg freezing in the UK will typically cost about £4000 for collection and freezing. Keeping the eggs in storage might cost £125 to £350 a year. If you decide to use the eggs, the IVF and embryo transfer might cost around £2500. The costs will be lower if you travel overseas to have the treatment.
The procedures that are used to collect and use frozen eggs are the same as for conventional IVF treatment. The risks are low, but there is a chance that you could experience side effects from the medication or an infection as a result of the egg collection procedure. In rare cases, the medication can trigger ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can cause very serious symptoms if it isn’t treated quickly.
Since there is limited data on the use of frozen eggs for IVF, it isn’t clear whether there are any additional risks during pregnancy. There is some evidence that women using frozen eggs are slightly more likely to have a miscarriage. However, it is unclear whether this is because the eggs were frozen or because these women are usually older mothers and therefore more likely to experience complications during pregnancy.
Another risk that you should be aware of is that egg freezing and IVF treatment won’t always be successful. Approximately 19% of IVF treatments performed using frozen eggs will result in a successful pregnancy. You might need multiple cycles of IVF to get pregnant or you might not be able to get pregnant at all.
The regulations over the storage of frozen eggs will depend on the country and clinic where you have the procedure. Most clinics will store frozen eggs for up to 10 years. If you are a girl or young woman undergoing treatment that could affect your fertility then you may be able to store your eggs for longer.
Freezing your eggs can give you the best chances of having your own family in the future. If you’re having certain kinds of treatment, it could be the only way to preserve your fertility. We can help you to understand the risks and benefits so that you can make the right choice. We’ll arrange for your eggs to be collected, frozen and stored safely until you want to use them.
If you’re considering freezing your eggs, get in touch to discuss the procedure in detail with one of our experienced fertility specialists.
After the eggs have been collected from the ovaries, they will be mixed with a solution containing cryoprotectants. These can prevent ice crystals forming inside the eggs and damaging them. The eggs will then be cooled gradually or frozen quickly and stored in a tank of liquid nitrogen.
You will need to take medication for about 2 to 3 weeks before your eggs can be collected and frozen. The drugs will regulate your menstrual cycle and trigger the release of more mature eggs than usual. The more eggs that can be collected, the better the chances of success if you use them for IVF treatment later on.
The number of eggs that can be collected for freezing will vary between women. The average number that is collected is about 15 eggs, but it will usually be lower for older women or those with a low ovarian reserve. It is possible to undergo the egg collection procedure more than once, but you will need to discuss this with your doctors.
Most clinics will store frozen eggs for up to 10 years. Longer storage terms may be possible outside the UK or in special circumstances, such as when young girls have to undergo treatments that will affect their fertility. You must ensure that the clinic has your current contact details during the storage period in case they need to reach you. You will also have to keep up with the payments to cover the storage costs.
If you decide not to use your frozen eggs (for example because you have gotten pregnant naturally or decided not to have children) then you can choose to have them disposed of or you can donate them. You can decide if you want your eggs to be donated to someone who want to have children or only to be used for research or training purposes. You will have complete control over the decision.
If you decide to use your frozen eggs then they will be thawed carefully. You might decide to leave some of the eggs in storage or to use them all at once. The thawed eggs can then be fertilised in vitro by your partner or donor’s sperm. Individual sperm cells will be injected into each egg in a procedure called Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection. The ICSI technique can increase the chances of success when using frozen eggs. The resulting embryos will be checked and the highest quality one will be transferred into the womb. Any remaining healthy embryos can be frozen and used for future cycles of IVF if necessary.
The average success rate for IVF with frozen eggs is 19%. However, there are many factors that can affect the chances of conceiving with IVF, including your age, lifestyle and health. The success rate with frozen eggs can be higher than for freshly collected eggs for older women. If the IVF treatment is not successful on the first cycle then you can decide if you want to try again until all of your frozen eggs have been used.
If you have been unable to conceive using your frozen eggs and you are no longer producing eggs, you might want to consider using an egg donor to conceive. If you are still ovulating, then it may be possible to try to collect more eggs, but the success rate for this procedure does decline with age.
The biggest benefit of freezing your eggs is that it can give you more control over your fertility. If you’re undergoing treatments that could affect your fertility, then freezing your eggs is the best options to ensure you can have a baby in the future. Undergoing the procedure now can also ensure that there are eggs available in the future even if your ovaries are no longer producing enough healthy, mature eggs for you to get pregnant naturally or with IVF.
The procedures used to stimulate ovulation and collect eggs do carry a small risk of side effects. The most serious risk if ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which can be very painful and could even be fatal if it is left untreated. However, the risk of complications is very low. A bigger risk is that freezing your eggs could give you a false sense of security if you forget that it cannot guarantee you will be able to get pregnant in the future. Eggs won’t always survive the freezing and thawing procedures and IVF treatment isn’t always successful. It is essential to have realistic expectations of how egg freezing can help you to preserve your fertility.
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