How To: Freeze Eggs For Future Pregnancy

Women are being told to freeze their eggs before the age of 35. Is this the right advice to be giving people though?

As we explained in an article published this morning, another set of doctors has issued a report explaining the rate at which fertility drops off in women over 35-years-old.

They helpfully explain that fertility has been deemed to "decrease significantly" between the ages of 38 and 44.


And, owing to the results of their study - an analysis of 4,200 women undergoing IVF - the doctors involved have proclaimed: "Women should be encouraged to have families earlier but if you can't change society then we should encourage them to freeze their eggs by 35."

Well, gee, thanks for that.

The idea that women have a biological clock and that it continues ticking towards some inevitable fertility drop off at latter end of our 30s is really not news, though the number of articles we see on the subject daily would have us believe otherwise.

This pressure to freeze our eggs is relatively current though, especially after Facebook and Apple have both reportedly begun to offer egg-freezing among their company benefits.

But how feasible actually is egg-freezing? And how long can you ask for them to stay frozen? And what happens when you decide you want to make use of them?


What actually happens when you freeze eggs?
Eggs are harvested from you - it's not usually particularly invasive as a procedure, as the eggs can be retrived via a needle that is inserted through the vagina, using an ultrasound machine for guidance.

After this they are dehydrated and frozen, using various techniques (currently, vitrification) to ensure dangerous ice crystals do not form due to the natural water content of human eggs.

There is no real conclusive evidence that the length of time the eggs remain frozen affects their viability, meaning theoretically you could freeze them indefinitely.

Why would you freeze your eggs?

If, for any reason, you feel you'll need to delay having children (providing you want children) to a point that might be after the age of 35.

The uterus doesn't significantly age, meaning it can carry a child to term for quite some time after you hit your 40s.

Eggs, however, are a different story. You have a limited reserve of them, though it is different for every woman, but also, the eggs themselves do age.

So this means, the current advice is that it is better to freeze eggs while you are still relatively young, reproductively speaking.


What process will you have to undergo at the clinic?

Before anything happens, you will be given lots of information and asked to sign a consent form for your eggs to be frozen.

Following that, you should be screened for any infectious diseases.

There are 2-4 weeks of self-administered hormone injections and pill taking to go through, to prevent the natural hormones from working.

Following this, there is usually a 10-14 day period of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple eggs.

Then, you head into the clinic for the above described procedure.

Clinics will usually advise the freezing of multiple eggs. According to statistics, of every 10 eggs frozen, an average of seven will survive the freeze-thaw process.

How much does it cost?

Well, here's the rub.

This is not a cheap procedure. The consultation alone can cost you between £200-400.

A single round of hormone treatments and egg harvesting will likely cost you a minimum of £2,900, but considering this can result in as few as three eggs being retrieved, most clinics will advise you to undergo three rounds.

So if you agree to that, you're looking at a minimum of roughly £9,000.

Clinics will usually store your eggs for ten years, but you might have to pay more if you want it to exceed that time constraint.

If you want to use your eggs, you'll then have to save up for some IVF rounds, which cost a minimum of about £3,000.

So - should we really be telling women under 35 to freeze their eggs?

Look, there's no doubt that egg freezing has been a boon to career-women and those undergoing cancer treatments, who a) want to have children, b) need to put it off for a while and c) have quite a large disposable income.

However, there is something seriously fishy about the persistent pressure, from doctors, scientists or otherwise, that is being put on women in their 20s at the moment.

Firstly, we already know (all too severely) that natural fertility wanes after a certain age. Of course there are always going to be individual cases that attest to the contrary, but still, we are aware that our 20s are ideal child-bearing times.

And yes, it is true that in urban areas, women are certainly beginning to put off having children. For financial reasons, for career reasons, or otherwise.

Using the media to turn up the volume on the ticking of our biological clocks until it reaches a deafening boom, however, and telling us that we ought to be freezing our eggs while we are still of a "young productive age" is just madness thought.

All it will do is put stress and pressure on women who, for the most part, didn't need to worry any more than they already are (stress itself affects our chances of conception) and who probably couln't afford to freeze their eggs anyway!

Because who in their early-mid 20s actually has a spare £9,000 just lying around?!

For more information - Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital has some valuable information.

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