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Choosing to freeze your eggs
Even if you want children, it may not be possible for financial, career or relationship reasons.
Fertility declines with age, so it can be difficult for some women to get pregnant later in life. Egg freezing gives you a choice; you can preserve your fertility to start a family later.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a method of storing your eggs to preserve fertility and allow you to have a baby later. It’s an option usually considered by women not in a position to have a baby, or whose fertility is at risk for medical reasons.
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Choosing to freeze your eggs doesn’t mean you’re robbing yourself of viable eggs from your egg supply (ovarian reserve). Some women who freeze their eggs don’t use them because they later fall pregnant naturally.
The egg freezing process
During every cycle, eggs grow in fluid filled sacs (called follicles) on the ovaries. Only 1 egg will mature and be released (through ovulation), the rest will die. The egg freezing process, as with an IVF cycle, helps all the eggs to mature.
Stimulation of your ovaries
To do this, you’ll undertake a series of hormone medications to help stimulate your ovaries for around 10-12 days. Your fertility specialist will discuss the best medications and stimulation techniques for you.
Generally, stimulation is by giving yourself hormone injections using a tiny needle under the skin. Don’t worry, it’s not scary, and your fertility nurse will help you through the process. During the stimulation period, you’ll be monitored via blood tests and ultrasounds.
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The eggs stimulated to grow would have grown or died during your natural cycle
that month. The stimulation mimics your body’s natural processes. It doesn’t affect future egg supply or lead to premature menopause.
When your eggs are ready to be collected, you’ll visit the hospital for a short procedure. You’ll be asleep, so you won’t feel a thing. The procedure itself takes around 10-15 minutes and you can usually go home in 1-2 hours.
Your fertility specialist will extract the fluid from the follicles on your ovaries, which contains your eggs. The eggs are extracted vaginally by your fertility specialist, so there’s no cuts or scars.
As with any procedure under anaesthetic, you might feel tired or groggy. Bring a support person as you won’t be able to drive.
Once your eggs have been collected, your fertility specialist passes them directly to our scientists. These skilled scientists identify the mature eggs to be frozen; only mature eggs are frozen as immature eggs don’t create a viable pregnancy. The scientists remove the eggs from the fluid and delicately remove their outer shell.
The eggs are then frozen in the lab using a method called vitrification, or snap freezing. The fluid is removed from the eggs to prevent damage when they are frozen.
Scientifically, there’s no time limit on how long eggs can stay frozen.
Using your frozen eggs
When you’re ready to use your frozen eggs to try and have a baby, see your fertility specialist to develop a treatment plan.
When it’s time, your eggs will be thawed by removing them from the freezing solution and quickly warming to 37 degrees Celsius. After a short recovery, the eggs are ready for insemination, usually by injecting a single sperm into the egg (ICSI). After fertilisation, the egg becomes an embryo, and a frozen embryo transfer (FET) is completed.
Should I freeze my eggs?
You may want to freeze your eggs if you’re:
- not in a position to have a child but would like the chance in the future
- worried about your fertility
- at risk due to a medical issue such as cancer.
Talk to your fertility specialist about tests available to check if egg freezing is right for you. You may need to have an egg timer test (AMH blood test) to check your ovarian reserve.
Monash IVF tip: Female fertility declines with age. Egg freezing (for non-medical purposes) is best done before you’re 35.
How successful is egg freezing?
A frozen egg does not always result in a pregnancy. The two main factors affecting your chances of success are the age of the eggs, (the age you are when you freeze your eggs), and how many eggs are frozen.
- At 30, approximately 10 eggs are required to achieve one pregnancy.
- At 40, around 20 eggs are required.
Costs of egg freezing
Egg freezing costs approximately $4927.
There are added costs for medication and hospital (approximately $3000-4000) fees; you may be able to claim these through health insurance.
In Australia, Medicare provides a rebate for fertility treatments if there is a medical need for the treatment. If you’re choosing to freeze your eggs for non-medical reasons, you won’t receive Medicare assistance.
Monash IVF tip: You may still receive rebates for consultations and tests. We recommend you get a referral letter from your GP and talk to a fertility specialist.
If egg freezing is not a suitable, you can consider:
- using donor sperm to try for a baby sooner rather than later
- using donor eggs
- ovarian tissue freezing.