Fertility is different for everyone. The choices individuals make that are right for them at that point in their life are very likely not going to be the right choices for someone else, regardless of how similar their circumstances may appear.
One thing that many seem to agree on, however, is that the average age of those giving birth in the UK is at an all-time high of 29.8 years old.
Isolating facts like this makes it seem like a breakthrough value but the reality is that this figure has been breaking records since 2003. The average age at which people are giving birth has been on a steady rise since the 1970s.
This takes root in many social and economic factors, but the fact of the matter is that despite changes in the fabric of society, biology still has to play catch up to support these new lifestyles.
Although many choose to have children later in life, the health and number of eggs an average individual can produce drops by the age of 30, and the health and quality of sperm have also been known to decline past the age of 40.
Thankfully, medical breakthroughs and scientifically backed treatments have only grown in recent years, expanding the options available to anyone with plans that can’t go by the biological clock.
Egg freezing is one method that many have chosen for preserving their fertility at its prime and keeping their options open to the possibility of conceiving when they feel more ready.
The first question that jumps to mind may be, how does egg freezing work? Let’s get into it.
How does egg freezing work?
Egg freezing involves storing eggs at low temperatures to preserve them for extended periods.
The procedure begins with tests to determine ovarian reserves and screening for viruses or diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. These can help predict how an individual’s system will react to the procedure and the medication involved.
Next, through self-administered injections, the ovaries are stimulated to produce more eggs.
Once the follicles have formed, the egg retrieval procedure is carried out under sedation. This is generally done by passing a needle through the vagina to reach the follicles and draw them out. Most fertility specialists will aim to retrieve between 10–20 eggs depending on the unique circumstances and how many were produced.
After the eggs have been retrieved, they’ll be brought down to subzero temperatures. This is done through a fast-freezing technique known as vitrification. The eggs are then frozen until the owner is ready to use them.
Are there risks?
Egg freezing is a medical procedure; even after you get answers to questions like—how does egg freezing work? and is this the right choice for me?—undergoing the procedure can take a physical and mental toll, regardless of whether the procedure is right or safe for them.
Discomfort, swelling, cramps, and feelings of pressure are normal because the ovaries may remain enlarged for some time following the procedure.
There are reported cases of overstimulated ovaries. Before this develops into a more serious syndrome, however, there are several warning signs that a good fertility specialist will spot, to ensure that no further symptoms develop.
It’s also important to keep in mind that once the eggs are thawed, they are fertilised through an IVF or ICSI procedure before being reintroduced into the uterus. These are separate procedures with different treatment cycles.
At the end of the day, egg freezing is a relatively new procedure and the risks and success rates haven’t been explored in detail—at least not yet. Chatting with a fertility specialist who knows your circumstances is the best way to make an informed decision that feels right and comfortable to you.
Choosing egg freezing for your fertility journey
It is difficult to guarantee a healthy, successful pregnancy even with fertility treatments.
The quality of the eggs, the age of the individual when the eggs are frozen and the number that can survive when thawed and fertilised will all impact the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. Fertility treatments can, however, help preserve fertility and give an individual the opportunity to conceive when they are ready.
If you or someone you know is opting to freeze their eggs make sure you pick a reliable clinic and a fertility specialist you trust. Being under the watchful care of the right experts can make the process less stressful and more comfortable.