For women, fertility decreases gradually over time and from the age of 35, it begins to drop more rapidly. As the number of eggs available, known as the ovarian reserve, decreases, the eggs also begin to lower in quality. This makes it more difficult for women to conceive naturally as they get older. This is a normal biological process, which cannot be altered.
However, the reality is that today more and more women are choosing to have children later in life. This may be due to personal, social or career circumstances. As a result, many women now preserve their fertility by freezing eggs at a younger age, allowing them to be used in the future.
Through the freezing method known as vitrification, the eggs retain their quality at the time of preservation. This means if you decide you want to have a baby later in life, you can use these eggs and have the same chances of getting pregnant as you would have had at the time of preservation.
For women, fertility preservation consists of collecting and preserving eggs for use in the future at a time that’s right for them. Preservation is possible due to the technique known as vitrification. Virtification is a specific method of freezing eggs in which their characteristics and quality are retained by being cryopreserved and stored at a very low temperature of -196ºC.
Women who might not be ready for a family right now, but wish to have the option of having children later in life. The best time to preserve fertility is before the age of 35. Beyond the age of 35, it is still possible to freeze eggs however the eggs will likely be lower in quality and quantity, and might not provide optimal chances of a pregnancy if used in a fertility treatment.
Thanks to the freezing technique known as vitrification, we are able to maintain the quality of the eggs until the day they are thawed, with very high survival rates. This rate is currently over 95% for eggs collected from women under the age 35, which is much higher than that of traditional freezing methods. They can also be kept frozen for longer periods, with no time limitation.
When used in assisted reproductive treatment, previously vitrified eggs do not negatively affect the chances of the success in any way, as the oocytes maintain the same quality at the time they were preserved. In addition, the IVF success rates achieved with eggs that have been previously frozen and thawed are equal to those achieved with fresh eggs.
18 – 24 years
Best age to have children from a physical point of view.
25 – 30 years
High chances of getting pregnant without help.
31 – 35 years
Production of quality eggs starts to decline.
36 – 40 years
Low fertility. High risk of chromosomal alterations in the eggs.
41 – 45 years
Very low fertility. The woman’s body prepares for menopause.
During your first consultation at IVI London, your fertility specialist will carry out a complete gynaecological examination and run some simple tests in order to assess the status of your fertility. They will then explain the different steps of the fertility preservation process based on this personalised assessment. During your second visit, your treatment pathway will begin.
The treatment begins at the start of your menstrual cycle, which is when we start the ovarian stimulation. Ovarian stimulation lasts between 10 – 12 days and consists of taking hormonal injections that trigger the ovaries to produce more eggs than they would during a normal menstrual cycle.
Your gynaecologist will monitor you closely with a series of ultrasound scans and blood tests. When the eggs have reached the right number and size, a dose of the hormone hCG is administered to induce ovulation. At this point, the egg retrieval procedure, known as egg collection, is scheduled at your clinic roughly 36 hours later.
The egg collection is performed within an operating theatre where you will be under sedation to ensure you don’t feel any discomfort. From start to finish, the procedure takes no longer than 20 minutes. During the procedure, the ovaries are accessed through the vaginal cavity, where the eggs are aspirated and taken to the laboratory to be vitrified.
After the procedure, you will be accompanied to your recovery room where you will be able to rest. When ready, you will be discharged and able to continue your day as normal. However, we recommend taking the day off work if possible.
When the eggs, known as oocytes, are frozen, they are treated to ensure they are not damaged during the cooling process. After they are treated, they are placed in protective carrier and immersed in liquid nitrogen at -196°C. The carrier is stored in specific tank which is constantly maintained at a very lower temperature. The tank has a double alarm system to ensure that the temperature remains within the optimum range at all times.
When it comes to utilising the frozen eggs, your prognosis will depend on the number of eggs collected and their quality at the time of freezing. Like any fertility treatment, it is important to remember that freezing eggs cannot guarantee a future pregnancy. However, by freezing eggs at the right time, it does guarantee the possibility of undergoing an IVF treatment at a later stage in life in which you will have higher chances of success.