Egg freezing: what’s involved & does it work?

Women who are at risk of losing their fertility can now freeze their eggs to give them a chance of having a baby in the future. But what does egg freezing really involved and what issues should be considered?

Why freeze your eggs?

Some cancer treatments can reduce a woman’s future fertility. Depending on the type of cancer and the type of treatment, women who want to have children after recovering from cancer can freeze their eggs to increase their chance of having a baby when the time is right. Click here to find out more information about the fertility preservation options available for women facing cancer treatment.

Fertility also declines with age. For women who wish to have children but don’t yet have a partner or who want to have children later in life, egg freezing offers the opportunity to extend their fertile years.

Click here to find out more about egg freezing options.

How is it done?

Fertility drugs are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles that contain eggs. When the eggs are mature, they are collected in a simple procedure. The eggs are fast frozen and then stored in liquid nitrogen until the woman is ready to use them. At that time they are thawed and sperm is added. A few days later an embryo is transferred to the uterus. If more than one embryo has developed they can be frozen and stored for future us.

The chance of having a baby after egg freezing depends on the woman’s age when the eggs are frozen, the number of eggs that are available, and the technical expertise at the clinic where the eggs are stored. It is important to remember that there are a number of steps involved and that things can go wrong at each step:

  • Some women don’t respond to the fertility drugs and may only develop two or three eggs
  • Some eggs may not survive the freezing and thawing process
  • Some eggs may not fertilise and develop into embryos
  • Not all embryo transfers result in the birth of a baby.

What things do you need to consider?

If you consider egg freezing make sure you are well informed before going ahead. To help you decide you should ask questions about:

  • The clinic’s experience and success rate with egg freezing including the chance of eggs surviving the freezing and thawing process.
  • How many eggs you need to store to have a reasonable chance of having a baby.
  • What the cost is, including the cost of the hormone stimulation, storage, thawing, fertilisation and embryo transfer.
  • Your estimated chance of having a baby, considering your circumstances, including your age.
  • What the potential risks might be.

This article was produced by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA).

VARTA provides public education and resources for professionals and the community on fertility and issues related to assisted reproductive treatment, including IVF, surrogacy and donor-conception.

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