Freezing your eggs is an opportunity to have some more time to finally find the right partner, to focus on your career or simply to feel ready. However, the oocyte cryopreservation process is expensive and you can’t be 100% sure that your frozen eggs will allow you to have a baby. On top of that, you might finally find your significant one along the way. So, should you freeze your eggs or not?
Why do women freeze their eggs?
In our society, with all its obstacles to having a baby (finding a partner ready to commit, longer studies, high youth unemployment and the struggle to become financially stable), the average age of first-time pregnancies is rising all the time. It’s not rare for women to become pregnant after 35 or 40. However, fertility declines gradually and after 35 it drops drastically.
Oocyte cryopreservation aims to help women stay true to their dream of having a baby, while lessening the pressure placed on them by their biological clock. It allows them a little extra time to finally find a partner with whom they feel ready to start a family. It also permits them to focus more on their career and to become financially secure, move in to a bigger apartment etc.
Being able to postpone your pregnancy is an opportunity to offer the best life possible to your baby. Freezing your eggs for “social” reasons is called “social freezing”, in contrast to those who preserve their fertility for medical reasons (because they have a condition that could affect their fertility, for instance).
When should you freeze your eggs?
In short, the process involves freezing and storing your eggs in liquid nitrogen in order to use them later on, when you feel ready to have a baby. Frozen at -196 degrees Celsius, the quality of the eggs should remain constant during their years of storage. So in theory, if you freeze your eggs at 30, they’ll be just as viable as they were at this age, once you decide to use them.
Therefore, to improve your chances of getting pregnant later in life, it’s best to freeze your eggs in your early 30s, and preferably before 35.
How does the oocytes cryopreservation process work?
To freeze your oocytes, you’ll first have to undergo an ovarian stimulation (which usually lasts for around 2 weeks), along with blood tests and scans. This process entails injecting hormones to stimulate the production of eggs. Once it’s done, a medical professional will retrieve your eggs from your ovaries while you are under sedation. Following this procedure (which usually lasts for about 20 minutes), the eggs are placed in storage. Sides effects are minimal and you usually can get back to work the next day.
When you are ready to start a family, your eggs will be thawed and fertilised via IVF, in vitro maturation (IVM) or ICSI techniques.
How much does egg freezing cost?
In the UK, social freezing usually costs between 3,500 and 4,500 pounds per cycle. However, this price does not include the cost of IVF or other fertility treatments necessary to have a baby later on. You also usually need to pay an annual storage fee after the first year.
What are the odds of getting pregnant with frozen eggs?
Basically, the younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the more chance you will have of becoming pregnant. Success rates vary from clinic to clinic and tend to be situated somewhere between 10% to 60%, depending on the age of the woman involved. However, as the process is relatively new, we may have to wait a few more years to have more precise statistics.
In fact, as of December 2012, only 20 babies have been born via treatments involving frozen eggs in the UK (this number does not include those born with donor eggs).
Unfortunately, frozen eggs don’t fare as well as embryos during the freezing and thawing process and, therefore, the chances of conception via cryopreservation are not as high. However, a new method called “vitrification” (which is a fast-cooling technique that prevents ice crystal formation which can damage the eggs) has dramatically increased egg survival rates.