Fertility Preservation or Egg freezing and storage is a process whereby a woman’s eggs are extracted at the time of ovulation, then frozen in a embryology laboratory and stored until a future date for up to 5 years, when they can be used in IVF treatment. Egg freezing is a relatively new technique and has increased in popularity in recent years, due to improved methods of both freezing and higher success rate.
The process of egg freezing is much the same as a regular IVF treatment, except that instead of fertilising the eggs when they are extracted, the eggs are frozen and put into storage for future use.
As with IVF treatment, a woman choosing to freeze her eggs will usually begin by taking drugs to stimulate her ovaries to produce more eggs. This is because the more eggs that are frozen, the better your chances of one getting fertilised when you do decide to go ahead with IVF treatment.
Once the ovarian stimulation drugs have taken effect, your cycle will be closely monitored, using ultrasound scans so that we can assess when the eggs reach optimum maturity. At this point, the eggs are collected in clinic, using the same process as for conventional IVF. This will take approximately half an hour and is generally performed under sedation.
After the eggs have been extracted, they are frozen very quickly in a process known ‘vitrification’. This method is used at Orchid as it shows significantly higher success rates in comparison to the older method that some clinics are still using and is called “slow freezing”. The eggs will then be stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen, for up to 5 years, until such a time as they are required.
There are many reasons for which a woman may choose to freeze her eggs. Many couples may want to start a family at some point in the future, but current circumstances mean that now may not the right time to do so. Egg quality is affected by woman’s age, so it is advisable that if a woman wants to delay to start a family, it is better to freeze her eggs at a younger age.
Freezing your eggs while you are relatively young, fit and healthy means that when you do decide to start a family in later life you are giving yourself the best chance of success, as both the quality and quantity of the eggs you produce will decrease as you age. Chemotherapy can prevent your ovaries functioning normally, either temporarily or permanently, so increasing number of women recently diagnosed with cancer are exploring the option of freezing their eggs for a future date. Egg freezing may delay the start of chemotherapy.
Freezing your eggs while you are relatively young, fit and healthy means that when you do decide to start a family in later life you are giving yourself the best chance of success, as both the quality and quantity of the eggs you produce will decrease as you age.
If you choose to undergo IVF treatment aged 38+ using frozen eggs, however, studies have shown that you have an equal chance of success as you would have had at the age you were when the eggs were frozen.
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