Social egg freezing

The idea behind freezing your eggs while you’re young is that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Egg numbers, and therefore your fertility, begin to decline in your early thirties. With egg freezing, your eggs become frozen in time and keep their quality. They can be thawed out and used to create a baby some years later, but they remain as ‘young’ as the day they were frozen.

Over the last two decades, egg freezing has increasingly been offered in fertility centres worldwide. However, the number of babies born from thawed eggs remains low. That’s why there is still much debate as to the effectiveness of egg freezing programs.

What are the steps to freeze eggs?

Egg freezing involves having female hormone injections for 12 -14 days before eggs are collected from your ovaries and frozen. Going through an egg freezing cycle is not as complicated as you might think. It involves a number of steps (see our patient journey diagram):

1.  Fertility MOT and Consultation
2. Nurse Consultation
3. Ovarian stimulation
4. Egg collection
5. Laboratory process to freeze eggs

Fertility MOT and consultation

You’ll first be invited in to have an ovarian reserve assessment and medical consultation to review your fertility and discuss your needs. Following this, your Consultant will prepare an individualised program for you. You’ll be offered counselling as well as other support options.

Nurse Consultation

At this appointment, we’ll map out your treatment journey and agree on your start dates. It’s a good idea to attend with your partner if you are having treatment together, or to bring a friend or relative for support if you’re single. 

You’ll have two Nurse Consultations; one to set dates and a further one where we show you how to take your medication, including self-administering your injections. Some people worry about this, but our experienced staff will make sure you feel confident that you can take your medication safely. We also have demonstration videos that you can view at home in case you want to go over anything again. All your medication will be delivered to your home (or other address of your choice) via our home-delivery pharmacy.

Most of our treatment plans require you to fill out some detailed, and sometimes complicated, consent forms to comply with regulations of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). To help you do this, we use an online fertility consent portal. That means you can complete your consent forms from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you happen to be) using a computer or mobile device.

We’ll ask you to watch some online videos about your proposed treatment before you attend your Nurse Consultation. The nurse will then check you’ve understood all the information in the consent forms and ask you (and your partner if they’re involved in the treatment) to sign these in the clinic.

During your consultations, you’ll also be given more information about our patient support options.

Before you leave, we’ll give you a fertility treatment identity card and a treatment schedule, which we’ll ask you to bring to every appointment.

Ovarian stimulation

You will need to take daily hormone injections that stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs. You take these for around 12 days. We’ll show you how to do these injections yourself, so you don’t need to make unnecessary trips to the clinic.

You’ll have three or four ultrasound monitoring scans and blood tests during your treatment cycle. These check the development of your follicles (the fluid sacs that contain the eggs).

Your results are reviewed by our medical team. They’ll advise you about whether you need to adjust the dose of your hormone injections. Once your follicles have reached the correct size, your Consultant will advise you to have an injection to mature your eggs ready for egg collection.

Egg collection

This is carried out at the Agora by one of our Consultants. You’ll be given sedation to help you sleep through the procedure which usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

During the egg collection, a fine needle, attached to an ultrasound scanning probe, is passed through the vagina into each ovary to collect the eggs.

Once you have had the egg collection you will be transferred to our recovery bay where you will be cared for by our specialist nursing team. You will be given something to eat and drink and then you can go home. You should not drive or exert yourself unduly and just relax at home.

Egg collection is not usually a painful procedure but some patients find they need to take some paracetamol later in the day as they experience mild period like pains. You can go back to work the next day if you wish.

IVF Laboratory processes

During egg freezing, all the eggs that have been collected are rapidly frozen during a process called vitrification. The eggs are frozen in liquid nitrogen and carefully stored in tiny straws each labelled with your details.

Freezing eggs fertilised with sperm

If you’re certain about how you would want to use your eggs in the future, we may advise you to consider having them fertilised with donor sperm or your partner’s sperm to create embryos which are then frozen. We might suggest donor sperm if, for example, your partner or future partner is unlikely to be able to provide a sperm sample.

If you plan to have your eggs treated with sperm before they are frozen, the sperm needs to be available on the same day as the egg collection. This can be a fresh sample provided by a partner or a frozen sample if you are using donor sperm or previously frozen partner sperm. During sperm preparation in the IVF laboratory, the healthiest sperm are selected following a special process that is carried out in our on-site laboratory. 

Your eggs are placed in a dish with sperm from your partner or sperm donor and allowed to fertilise. If the sperm is low in numbers or of poor quality, we may advise the eggs to be treated with intracytoplasmic injection (ICSI). This is a form of IVF where a single healthy sperm is injected directly into the centre of each egg to assist fertilisation. The treated eggs are then placed in an incubator. This provides the optimum conditions to allow fertilisation to take place.

Our embryologists will be in contact with you the next morning to let you know how many of your eggs have been fertilised. They will then keep you updated on how your fertilised eggs (now called embryos) are developing and to answer your questions. We normally freeze the embryos once they have reached the blastocyst stage which is 5 days after the egg collection.

Why has egg freezing become so popular?

In recent years, a rapid freezing technique called vitrification has been developed. It minimises crystal formation in cells, meaning less damage to the eggs during the freezing and thawing process. That’s made egg freezing a far more realistic option than it was before. It’s led to more women wanting to freeze their eggs for social reasons before they lose their fertility (which happens from the mid-thirties onwards).

Is egg freezing right for me?

Taking the decision to freeze your eggs isn’t always simple. There are many factors to consider, including the costs and risks of treatment as well as the emotional burden.
 

  • If you choose to freeze your eggs too young, they may be higher in quality, but you will not be able to keep them in storage for more than 10 years due to the current HFEA regulation on storage. That means you may never be able to use them or you may conceive naturally have no reason to use them
  • If you leave it until your late thirties, you egg quantity and quality may be lower which will reduce the chances of success when you come to use them
How successful is egg freezing?

The most recent published figures support the view that achieving a pregnancy using thawed frozen eggs is a realistic option for women. And frozen eggs seem to be as effective in achieving pregnancy as fresh eggs. There don’t appear to be any pregnancy-related risks to the mother when frozen eggs are used. That’s one reason why more egg donation programs are using frozen eggs.. 

The table below is taken from a recent scientific publication. It shows the likely survival rate for frozen eggs after thawing according to the age at which they were frozen.

Age at freezing

Survival rate (%)

Clinical pregnancy rate/ thaw cycle started (%)

Clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer (%)

≤35

94.6

58.5

61.5

≥36

82.4

31.3

39.8

All ages

85.2

37.1

45.2

If you’re 35 years or younger when your eggs are frozen, you have a greater than 85% chance of achieving a live birth if you freeze 15 eggs. There’s a 60% chance of a live birth if you freeze 10 eggs and a 15% chance if you freeze only 5 eggs.

If you’re over 35, the numbers drop progressively with age. Your overall chance of a live birth if you’re 36 or older is 36% if 15 eggs are frozen, 30% if 10 eggs are frozen and 5% if only 5 eggs are frozen. That means, the older you are, the more eggs should be frozen. 

It’s essential to understand that, even with these success rates, there is no guarantee of success, no matter how many eggs you’re able to freeze. That’s because other factors, such as egg quality, also play a role in success. In some cases, a successful pregnancy can be achieved with only a few eggs. In others, no pregnancy will be achieved, even when over 20 eggs have been frozen.

How many eggs do I need to freeze?

The number of eggs you need to freeze depends on your age and ovarian reserve at the time of freezing. The younger you are, the more likely you are to conceive using a frozen egg.

What’s the best age to freeze my eggs?

The best age to freeze your eggs is between 30 and 35. We’d advise freezing 15 to 20 eggs to have a realistic chance (greater than 85%) of conceiving using these eggs in the future. This may mean you need to have more than one cycle of egg freezing. That’s why, at the Agora, second and third egg freezing cycles are discounted.

Can egg freezing bring on a premature menopause?

No, there is no risk of this happening. Each month a new batch of eggs are produced in the ovaries. Most of them will die unless they are ovulated. So when we use hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs to collect and freeze, we are simply collecting eggs that would otherwise have been wasted or ‘died’. So having one or more cycles of egg freezing or IVF won’t affect your long-term fertility or bring on an earlier menopause.

How long can you store frozen eggs, sperm or embryos?

Legally, under the HFEA regulation, you are allowed to store your eggs, sperm or embryos for any period up to 10 years. You will be contacted annually to ask if you wish to keep your eggs, sperm or embryos in storage. If you do, you need to pay an annual storage fee. If you have had NHS-funded fertility preservation, this fee may be covered by your NHS provider. You can opt to dispose of your eggs at any time.

If you are prematurely infertile or are likely to become prematurely infertile, you’re allowed to store your eggs, sperm or embryos for longer than 10 years (up to a maximum of 55 years).  We need to have a letter from your medical practitioner that certifies this to be true before we can offer this service. 

How will my frozen sperm or eggs be used in future?

Stored frozen sperm can be used in intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) either using donor eggs or a partner’s eggs. The sperm is stored in small vials called ampoules. For a cycle of treatment, one of those ampoules is thawed out.

Stored frozen eggs need to be fertilised with sperm to create embryos. This is done using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The embryos can be transferred to your womb or that of a surrogate or partner. A number of frozen eggs would need to be thawed out to complete a cycle of treatment.

How much does egg freezing cost?

A single egg freezing cycle at the Agora costs £3,500. This fee includes all your monitoring scans, all medical and nursing advice during the cycle, anaesthetic fees,  the egg collection procedure and the laboratory preparation.

It also includes freezing of your eggs and the storage fee for the first year. We may advise you to have more than one cycle. That’s to make sure you freeze enough eggs to give you a reasonable chance of being able to achieve a pregnancy with them in the future.

The estimated cost of your medication for each egg freezing cycle varies according to your age and ovarian reserve but is normally between £800 and £1200.

Beyond the first year, if you haven’t used your stored eggs, you’ll be charged an annual storage fee. 

Come to one of our
Virtual Open Evenings!

Same sex couples and single women:
Wednesday 4th November (5:30 pm)

Hetero couples:
Wednesday 21st October (5:30 pm)

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or phone: 01273 229410

We look forward to welcoming you.