Historically, fertility has been an afterthought for many women, but thankfully times have changed and more open conversations are taking place. When we think about reproductive health, most of us tend to associate it with being able to have children, but preserving your fertility if you would like to have children in the future is also part of it. Egg freezing is a popular option that many women are considering, which is why we spoke to Blogger and Podcaster Fawziah A. Qadir last month about her experience. When it comes to fertility, we know that everybody’s experience will be different, which is why we wanted to give you all the opportunity to ask a medical professional any questions you had about fertility or fertility issues.
Can I still freeze my eggs in my 40’s?
According to 2019 data from the UK’s fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), women typically freeze their eggs at the age of 38. However, fertility in women begins to decline in their 30s, particularly after the age of 35. Despite advances in egg freezing technology, age is a major factor in determining success, and the chance of having a baby using eggs that were frozen in your 40s is very low. It is important that women are properly counselled about the limitations of egg freezing and the risks of carrying a pregnancy past the age of 40. Anyone undergoing any form of fertility treatment should be completely aware of all the risks, costs, and realistic chances of success.
What is the best/ideal age to undertake the procedure to ensure healthy eggs?
It is advised for women to freeze their eggs before the age of 35, because as a woman ages, the likelihood of pregnancy decreases along with her egg quality and quantity. Also the older a woman becomes, the more chromosomally abnormal eggs she produces. Women are at their most fertile in their 20s, so the sooner a woman freezes her eggs, the higher her chances of having a healthy pregnancy when she is ready to use her frozen eggs. According to the HFEA, while a woman’s age at the time of thawing has little influence on the chances of successfully conceiving, the age at which she freezes her eggs does. When eggs are frozen before the age of 35, the chances of successful treatment are higher than the normal conception rate as a woman ages, or when undergoing fresh IVF at an older age.
How much does the whole process cost?
The entire process can cost around £6,000-£8,000. The average cost of collecting and freezing eggs is £3,350, with medication being an extra £500-£1,500, and storage expenses varying £125 – £350 yearly. It may be necessary to collect eggs in more than one round if you wish to freeze sufficient numbers to give you a good chance of having a baby using them in the future. This raises the cost, especially if the woman has a low ovarian reserve (which leads to few eggs being available for freezing). Following egg freezing, the average cost of thawing, fertilising and transferring the frozen eggs to the womb is £2,500. Anyone thinking about freezing their eggs should have all of the information they need, including risks and expenses, to make an informed decision that is suitable for them.
It is also important to understand that having eggs stored does not guarantee a baby in the future. For anyone who is interested in fertility perseveration, the HFEA lists licensed UK clinics on their website, and provides lots of reliable information about egg freezing.
How long can the eggs be in storage for?
As of July 1 2022, anyone who wants to preserve their fertility has the same access and opportunity to store their eggs for a period of time. If consent is obtained every ten years, eggs, sperm, or embryos can be kept for up to 55 years. The HFEA website has more information about egg storage, including anything embryo and donor-related.
What happens at an in person fertility test vs one you send off online?
In some circumstances, using at home tests can provide women with useful information. For instance, if a woman is trying to get pregnant and has regular periods, a urine ovulation test may be able to confirm that she is ovulating. However, if a woman has a condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), home testing kits are not useful to gain a complete picture, and often for a large cost. Factors such as hormonal and ultrasound results, as well as whether the woman has any associated diseases like diabetes, should be considered. Anyone should be encouraged to discuss any health-related worries they may have with their GP in order to help them make informed decisions regarding fertility testing or treatment.
Once you have frozen your eggs, will you only be able to conceive through IVF?
According to the HFEA, frozen and thawed eggs must be fertilised using a fertility procedure called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection). This is because the eggs’ outer layer becomes tougher during the freezing process, which could make it more difficult for sperm to naturally penetrate the egg. Embryos developing from fertilised eggs are transferred to the uterus to achieve a pregnancy. It’s also important to keep in mind that a woman who has frozen her eggs may still conceive naturally and may not need to use her frozen eggs.
Does freezing your eggs affect the quality & chances of fertilisation over time?
There is no evidence to suggest that freezing your eggs has any impact on the quality of surviving eggs, or chances of fertilisation in the future. The main impact on a woman’s egg quality and chances of fertilisation is age. After the age of 35 the quality (chromosomally normal) and quantity of eggs produced decreases. Some women may choose to freeze their eggs as young as possible to guarantee the highest quality eggs during thawing and fertilisation.
I’ve been told egg freezing only leads to 1% chance of the eggs being viable when thawed. Is that true?
Around 80 to 90 percent of eggs that are frozen are expected to survive when warmed in the future. Women who use their own frozen eggs in treatment have an 18% success rate (30% with frozen donor eggs). However, the increase in success rate with donor eggs here could be attributed to the age at which the eggs were frozen. With any fertility treatment it is important to note that there is no guarantee of a successful pregnancy and baby being born.