Egg freezing is becoming an increasingly common fertility treatment. For women who want to have biological children in the future but may have conflicting priorities right now, it can be an extremely valuable option to consider. If you are new to egg freezing, it’s important to be informed about all the steps involved and above all, understand that no fertility treatment can guarantee success.
What are the benefits of freezing eggs?
Nowadays, it is normal for women to delay having children until later in life. Sometimes by choice, sometimes through circumstance. It is important to respect everyone’s choices and avoid passing judgement. However, from a biological perspective, your chances of getting pregnant peak in your mid-20s to early-30s. When you reach your mid-30s, fertility starts to decline more rapidly. This is a normal and natural part of ageing.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of information about the implications of age in terms of egg quality – it is something I see very often in consultations and it is a problem we cannot ‘fix’. When we freeze eggs, we preserve their quality at that moment – if you freeze eggs at 30, for example, your eggs will retain the same potential of achieving a pregnancy if you use them at 40. Your chances of success depend on your age when you freeze your eggs – they are not affected by the age at which you use them in an IVF treatment.
Therefore, freezing eggs when you are younger is an excellent option that allows you to prioritise what is important while having a ‘plan B’ in place.
What is the process of freezing eggs?
Treatment begins with ovarian stimulation, which uses hormone injections over 10 – 12 days to help the body to produce more eggs than normal. Once enough eggs have matured, we induce ovulation and 36 hours later, we retrieve the eggs.
The egg collection lasts no longer than 20 minutes and is performed under sedation so you won’t feel any discomfort. Once collected, the eggs are immediately frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196°C (also known as vitrification). Recovery is fast and you’re normally discharged within one hour, although we do recommend taking the day off to rest.
It is important to realise that egg freezing doesn’t always result in a baby. To best understand your individual chances, it’s a good idea to book an initial consultation with a fertility clinic.
Can I freeze eggs if I am over 35?
Yes, you can freeze eggs if you are over 35 but keep in mind that freezing eggs preserves egg quality, so timing is important. Egg freezing works best if you do it earlier in life when the quality of your eggs is better – ideally, before 35. Although age has a significant role in your chances of success, other factors like lifestyle, genetics and pre-existing conditions can all be a factor, too.
If you freeze eggs in your late-30s or early-40s, you may produce fewer eggs and they may be lower in quality. This means you may need to go through multiple egg freezing cycles to accumulate an adequate number of eggs.
Not every egg is going to be viable: some may not be mature enough upon retrieval, some may not survive the thawing process, and some may not fertilise correctly when mixed with sperm. That is why we stimulate the ovaries to produce a multiple number of eggs during an egg freezing cycle. Freezing a higher number of eggs gives you the best possible chance of having a baby. Put simply, the more you freeze, the better your chances.
How long does it take to freeze eggs?
From your initial consultation to the day of your egg collection, the entire process takes between 2 – 3 weeks at IVI London.
Can I get egg freezing funded by the NHS?
The NHS offers egg freezing in certain medical situations, such as for people who risk infertility because of cancer treatment. Women who want to freeze eggs for non-medical reasons (sometimes called ‘social freezing’) must use a private clinic.
How much does egg freezing cost?
This will depend on which clinic you choose. At IVI London, an egg freezing cycle costs £3,295. This excludes the costs of services that vary from person to person, such as pre-treatment tests and medication. For these costs, we always recommend our patients to budget an additional £1,000 – £1,500.
Before undergoing treatment, you should check the credentials of the clinic, read the reviews and ask to see their proven results. A good clinic will give you all of the answers you need, so you leave feeling safe and thoroughly satisfied. A low-cost treatment is an attractive offer, but you should make sure they also have the right level of experience to support you. Egg freezing is a complex medical procedure: it is best to leave this responsibility to safe hands.
What advice would you give to women who are considering freezing eggs?
If you are going to freeze eggs, my biggest tip would be to do it sooner, rather than later. As we all know, fertility – including egg quality – declines with age. Freezing eggs before you turn 35 is best.
Your lifestyle can improve your egg quality: by moderating your alcohol intake, eating healthy foods, sleeping well and exercising, it can increase the likelihood of a successful egg freezing treatment.
Manage your expectations: egg freezing is never a guaranteed success and age is a key factor. Women under 35 have a 16% chance of having a baby when 5 eggs are frozen – with 15 eggs, this increases to 77% and with 25 eggs to 95%. For those over 35, there is a 6% chance with 5 eggs, increasing to 50% with 20 eggs. If you really want kids, you might consider having multiple cycles to maximise your chances.
Don’t underestimate the emotional toll of fertility treatment – get support, whether that’s a friend, family member or therapist. At IVI, we have in-house counsellors who provide their services free of charge to all patients.