25th July 2012 | by MFC Team
Egg freezing before age 35 can help prolong a woman’s fertility.
Women who are delaying childbearing and are concerned about their ability to become pregnant later when they are ready to have children, may want to consider freezing their eggs to use at a later date. This procedure was originally created to provide women facing the damaging effects of cancer treatments with an option to preserve their fertility. However, with more women delaying childbearing, there is increasing demand for egg freezing for “social” reasons.
The procedure is done at a fertility clinic and can be quite physically demanding and financially expensive. Women must first inject fertility medications to stimulate the development of eggs in their ovaries. Then they must undergo a procedure called egg retrieval where the mature egg follicles are removed from their ovaries, flash frozen through a process called vitrification, and stored in liquid nitrogen. When the woman is ready to start a family in the future, her eggs can be thawed and fertilized using her partner’s or a donor’s sperm – with one or two of the resulting embryos being transferred to her uterus.
Success rates vary according to a number of factors including the quality of the eggs that were originally retrieved and frozen. That is why age is such an important factor. The younger a woman is at the time she elects to preserve some of her eggs, the greater the likelihood that they will later be able to be fertilized.
Egg freezing is currently classified as experimental. The procedures for freezing and thawing human eggs are still being perfected, and the long-term implications are unknown. It is also not known how long eggs can be frozen and still be viable, with current estimates ranging from 8 to 10 years. It is also important to note that not all fertility clinics offer this option – particularly for social reasons. But with more women delaying childbearing, and the procedures for egg freezing becoming more reliable, egg freezing is likely to be a more readily available fertility preservation option at more fertility clinics in the future.
For more information see our preservation section.