Putting Your Fertility On Ice – Considering Freezing Your Eggs?

April 14, 2017

by Dr. Rob Downer, Clinical Embryologist

Egg freezing or ‘oocyte vitrification’ is a method whereby a number of a woman’s eggs are collected from her ovaries and frozen for potential use in the future for the purposes of having a baby. Initially this method was introduced for woman who undergoing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy or removal of the ovaries in the treatment of cancer, which would diminish or eliminate their fertility. Freezing eggs prior to treatment gave the woman the potential to have a child after her treatment was complete.

When it was first introduced the method of freezing eggs was very inefficient and egg survival and subsequent pregnancy rates were low. However, in the last ten years the method of egg freezing has improved, which has led to an increase in egg survival rates and pregnancy rates.

As a result of these improvements, ‘social egg freezing’ has become a viable option. It is well known that a woman’s fertility decreases from the age of 35 as a result of diminishing egg numbers and poorer egg quality. In the event that a woman is not ready to have a child before the age of 35 then she can choose to freeze her eggs for use in the future, thus preserving good quality eggs.


Are you a candidate for egg freezing?

Every woman is different and each individual’s situation should be reviewed and assessed on a case by case basis. However, ideally a woman should be under the age of 35 to have the best chance of freezing a significant number of good quality eggs to optimize the chances of pregnancy in the future.

The European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) Task Force on Ethics and Law recommends that egg freezing should not be recommended for women greater than 38 years of age, but it also acknowledged that women greater than 38 years of age may be candidates for egg freezing if this approach is supported by her individual fertility test results.


What’s involved?

The process is very similar to patients undergoing IVF treatment in our IVF clinics. Once some basic fertility tests have been performed the patient’s ovaries are stimulated using hormone injections over an eight to twelve day period to promote the growth of eggs in the ovaries. Under sedation the eggs are then collected from the ovaries and frozen in the laboratory. When using the eggs in the future, they are thawed in the laboratory and inseminated (fertilised) using sperm from a partner or donor.

The resulting embryos are grown in the laboratory and the best embryo or embryos are transferred back into the uterus with the hope that a pregnancy will occur.


What are the success rates?

International studies comprising women who had their eggs frozen before the age of 36 concluded that the chance of giving birth to a baby using the frozen eggs was 4 to 5% per egg frozen. As a result, the more eggs that are frozen the higher the chance of success in the future. In a typical egg collection, between 5 and 20 mature eggs are usually collected.


If you are considering freezing your eggs for social reasons it is important that you get the correct information and that you are realistic about the chances of success in the future. ReproMed proposes that egg freezing is providing women with choices and control regarding their own fertility, and offers significant chances of pregnancy in their future, but with no guarantee.

In 2016 ReproMed Ireland were the first Irish clinic to announce a live birth from a patient who underwent egg freezing (http://www.newstalk.com/Clinic-announces-birth-of-first-Irish-baby-conceived-from-frozen-egg) and we’re expecting the second live birth in the summer of 2017. This success has occurred within just 2 years of introducing the technology to our laboratory and a small suitable population uptake.

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