What is egg freezing and storage?
To help boost egg production, fertility drugs are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles (which contain the eggs). The developing follicles are monitored and when they are large enough, they are carefully emptied to collect the eggs that they have produced. They are collected while the patient is under sedation. To freeze the eggs, they are placed in storage in liquid nitrogen.
Is egg freezing and storage for me?
By storing your eggs, you may be able to use them for treatment in the future. You may want to discuss freezing your eggs with Newlife if:
- You have a family history of early menopause
- You are making a conscious decision to preserve your eggs in an optimal state for future use, as you are concerned about your fertility declining as you get older.
- You would like a child but are not yet in a stable relationship and wish to preserve your eggs.
- You are due to undergo medical treatment that may render you infertile such as cancer treatment.
What happens when eggs are frozen?
The procedure for freezing eggs is as follows:
Step 1. Before you agree to the freezing and storage of your eggs, your clinician will explain the process involved, including the risks. Your clinic should also offer you the opportunity to discuss your feelings and any concerns with a specialist counsellor.
Step 2. You will be screened for infectious diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
Step 3. You will need to give written consent for your eggs to be stored.
Step 4. Eggs are collected using the same procedure as for conventional IVF.
Step 5. Cryoprotectant (freezing solution) added to protect the eggs when they are frozen.
Step 6. The eggs are frozen by vitrification (fast freezing) and then stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen.
How much control do I have over what happens to my eggs?
The consent forms allow you to specify:
- that you consent to your eggs being stored then used in your treatment
- how long you want your eggs to be stored (the standard period is 10 years)
- what should happen to your eggs if you were to die or become unable to make decisions for yourself
- whether the eggs are to be used for your own treatment only, or whether they can be donated for
- someone else’s treatment, or used for research or training
- any other conditions you may have for the use of your eggs
You can vary or withdraw consent at any time, either before treatment or before the eggs are used in research or training. If this happens, your eggs will not be used.
How long can my eggs be stored for?
When you store eggs, make sure you understand the limits on the storage time and keep in contact with the clinic:
The standard storage period for eggs is normally 10 years. This period can be exceeded only in certain circumstances. Your clinician will be able to explain whether you can do this, and for how long you may be able to store your eggs. The maximum storage period is 55 years
You must let the clinic know if you change address or contact details. This is so that they will be able to contact you when the storage period is coming to an end. If they cannot contact you when the storage period ends, they may take your eggs out of storage and discard them.
What is my chance of having a baby with frozen eggs?
Since the process is a relatively new technique (the UK’s first birth from a frozen, thawed egg was less than 10 years ago), not many children have been born following the use of frozen eggs, so the chances of a successful pregnancy are difficult to assess.
Eggs are known not to respond well to freezing, and the resulting success rate is not high. However, vitrification (a new method for egg storage) has recently been show to improve the chance of eggs surviving the freeze-thaw process and therefore increase the success rate.
What are the risks of freezing eggs?
The usual risks of using fertility drugs apply to the fertility treatment involved. Egg freezing is still a relatively new technique and not all eggs will survive the freezing and thawing process or become fertilised.
It is important that you take into consideration the risks of this procedure and the likelihood of your eggs surviving the process when deciding whether to store your eggs for future use.
During your consultation, your doctor will provide detailed information on the risks involved.