This week I went to a very interesting debate about “social” egg freezing. Social egg freezing is a term used to describe freezing of eggs because a women wants to delay conceiving for social not medical reasons.
Until a few years ago, egg freezing was still in the research stages and could not be used as a treatment. With the development of a more successful freezing method called Vitrification, the process is now considered a realistic and practical treatment option.
Why egg freeze?
There is no question that female fertility declines with age. Going on the pill or being pregnant will not slow the decrease in quality or number of eggs. The fall in egg quantity happens at a different rate in individual women. Egg freezing allows a group of eggs to be frozen so preserving a small bit of a women’s fertility at that age.
At the debate I attended there was a point of view concerning the pressures that women find themselves in trying to balance career development (and so delaying pregnancy) against the lowering of chances of success of conceiving with increasing age. The cost and difficulty of accessing quality child care is also a reason that some may wish to delay. A very interesting point of view was that the delay in conceiving is a problem that is caused by the expectations of society and the answer (egg freezing) is now placed with the individual. So really shouldn’t we look to change society and people’s expectations?
Is egg freezing going to be very disruptive to my work schedule?
There will normally be one or two pre-treatment consultations where treatment plans will be discussed along with some tests and the signing of consent forms. There will then be between 3 and 4 visits during the stimulation where you will have ultrasounds and blood tests. A further visit will be needed on the day of egg collection. In reality the consultations and treatment ultrasound appointments can normally be scheduled around work. You will however need to take a day off on the day of egg collection.
How successful is it?
It is really difficult to give precise success rates. Pregnancy data is not demonstrated on the HFEA website for frozen eggs. Non-HFEA data that clinics present on their websites are not always externally validated and may not represent the whole picture. Nevertheless it is likely that pregnancy rates will be similar or just slightly lower to those of other women having IVF/ICSI in the same age range with fresh eggs.
Is egg freezing safe?
Egg freezing needs the ovaries to be stimulated so encouraging a good number of follicles to grow. This requires daily injections (up to about 14 days), ultrasounds and blood tests. At the end of the stimulation phase the egg collection procedure is performed to retrieve the eggs. The main concern is the over production of eggs which is called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which is uncommon and treatable. The long-term safety to a child is unknown as the technology has not been around long enough to give a clear answer. But there is no reason to think that a child would be at any more risk than any other child born as a result of IVF/ICSI.
All eggs have to be fertilised by ICSI
Before eggs are frozen the embryologists first need to prepare them. One of the important steps is called egg stripping. This is where the supporting cells around the egg are removed. These supporting cells (called the Cummulus) are necessary for normal fertilisation as in IVF. With normal IVF about 100 thousand sperm are mixed with the egg and Cummulus. If the Cummulus is removed then the only way to fertilise the egg is to artificially inject one sperm into the egg.
When you are trying to work out how much it is all going to cost then you need to think about all the steps involved. These include the costs of pre-treatment investigations, medication, treatment scans and blood tests. The cost of freezing for one or two years is normally included in the treatment price, with additional charges for extending the storage period.
If you would like to know more then please contact my PA Yvonne Baillie on 0207 125 0547 or firstname.lastname@example.org