Age is one of the most important factors in determining a woman’s fertility. This is because the number of eggs in a woman’s ovaries gradually declines from birth (from around one million eggs), until menopause at the average age of 51, when the egg pool is depleted. The peak period of a woman’s fertility is between the ages of 18 and 30, and by the age of 37, the number of eggs significantly declines.
Many women decide to defer having children for a variety of reasons, and one way of future-proofing fertility is to freeze some of your eggs. This has become an even more feasable option in recent years because of major advances in technology, which allow for a greater chance of success in freezing and thawing eggs safely.
How Do I Know If I Need To Freeze My Eggs?
Egg freezing is a method of storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs to allow her to try to conceive at a later date. It is seen as a way of preserving the possibility of fertility for women who are not in a position to become pregnant straight away, or whose fertility is at risk for medical reasons.
The aim is for the fertilised egg to develop into an embryo, which can then be transferred to the woman’s uterus. Ideally this will result in a pregnancy.
Age is still the best indicator of fertility as young eggs are the most fertile and of the best quality. There are a number of tests to determine the number of eggs a woman has including:
- AMH (Anti-Mullerian hormone) — This is a blood test that can provide information about the quantity of eggs a woman has remaining.
- AFC (antral follicle count) — This is an ultrasound test which can determine the number of eggs that are present in the ovaries.
What neither of these tests tell us is the quality of a woman’s eggs. This is best determined by age, so freezing your eggs when you are younger may give you a much better chance of a pregnancy in the future.
What Is The Process For Freezing My Eggs?
We try to obtain as many eggs as possible to maximise your chances of a pregnancy. The process typically involves three stages:
- You will undergo hormonal stimulation for 10 to 12 days. This will involve self-administering a daily injection just under your skin using a pen device that has a fine needle. Our IVF nurses will show you how to do this. You may feel a little bloated and tired during this time.
- Your eggs will then be collected from your ovaries using an ultrasound-guided probe, which is inserted into the vagina. This contains a very fine needle, which is gently passed through the vaginal wall into each ovary, allowing us to collect the eggs. The procedure is typically carried out under light general anaesthetic or with sedation, and you can go home one to two hours after the procedure. It is recommended that you rest for the remainder of the day.
- The next step is called vitrification, which is a freezing process that is performed in the lab. It involves the rapid freezing of eggs to extract fluid, to prevent potentially damaging ice crystal formation. Depending on your age, we will typically collect 12 eggs, eight will most likely survive the thawing process, and after fertilization result in about four embryos, which have the potential to create a baby.
Once vitrified, frozen eggs can be stored for many years. When the woman is ready to use them, they are warmed and then fertilised with sperm. Egg freezing allows a woman to defer her fertility until the time is right in her life.
If you have any questions about fertility, what’s involved in freezing your eggs, or other IVF procedures, please don’t hesitate to contact us.