What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing refers to a method of storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs so that she is allowed to try to conceive at a later date, even at a time when natural conception might be unlikely. It may be viewed as a way of preserving the fertility potential for women who may not be in a position to become pregnant right now, or whose fertility might be at risk for medical reasons such as a cancer diagnosis or chemotherapy.
Frozen eggs may be stored for many years without significant deterioration. When the woman is ready to use her eggs, they are thawed, and then fertilised with sperm. The aim is for the fertilised egg to develop into an embryo, which can then be transferred to the woman’s uterus so that implantation may occur.
Why choose us for your treatment?
Dr. Christopoulos has worked extensively with women undergoing egg freezing for medical or non-medical (social) reasons, including high-risk, oncology patients referred to tertiary centres such as Hammersmith Hospital and University College London Hospital. He has designed and implemented guidelines and protocols, which are applied and used in these centres of excellence to this day. Our team can help you through this process by providing one-to-one, individualised treatment, which will be meticulously designed to suit your wishes and needs.
What does egg freezing involve?
In order to freeze an able number of eggs, you will need to go through an IVF cycle. IVF cycles involve stimulation of the ovaries with medication known as gonadotrophins. These drugs aim to produce multiple eggs simultaneously. Tese medications are given as self-administered subcutaneous injections, which are used once every day for approximately 12 days. During this time, the ovarian stimulation is monitored closely by regular ultrasound scans and sometimes by performing a hormonal, blood test. By interpreting the results of ultrasound and bloo
d tests, the specialist will determine the best time to perform the egg collection.
At this point, instead of mixing the eggs with sperm (as in conventional IVF) a cryoprotectant (freezing solution) will be added to protect the eggs. The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. Latest statistics show that vitrification is more successful than the slow cooling met
Most women will have around 15 eggs collected although this isn’t always possible for women with low ovarian reserves (low numbers of eggs). When you want to use them, the eggs will be thawed and those that have survived intact will be injected with your partner’s or donor’s sperm.
All women having treatment with Athens Reproductive Care are offered direct, one-to-one care with Dr. Christopoulos, who will perform all the ultrasound scans and individualise your dosing regimen throughout. You will be monitored closely on a daily basis to allow for the optimal response to the medication.
Who may choose to have egg freezing?
Cryopreservation of the oocytes can be considered for a variety of reasons:
- Women with cancer requiring chemotherapy and/or pelvic radiation therapy that can significantly impair fertility.
- Surgery that may cause damage to the ovaries, such as excision of ovarian endometriosis or borderline ovarian tumours.
- Risk of premature ovarian failure due to the presence of certain, chromosomal abnormalities such as Turner syndrome or fragile X syndrome, or a strong family history of premature menopause.
- Genetic mutations requiring removing the ovaries, such as BRCA mutation which increases the lifetime risk of ovarian or breast cancer.
- Fertility preservation for social or personal reasons to delay childbearing
What happens when I want to use my eggs?
We use the best, available method of freezing called vitrification, which allows for ultra-rapid freezing of the eggs with outstanding egg survival rates. Even so, eggs that have been frozen and thawed must be fertilised using a fertility treatment called ICSI, as the freezing process makes the outer coating around the eggs tougher and sperm may be unable to penetrate it naturally under IVF.
How safe is it?
IVF is mostly very safe, although some women do experience side effects from their fertility drugs. These are usually mild, but in extreme cases women can develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). In cases of fertility preservation treatment such as egg freezing, we expect such complications to be extremely rare. Dr Christopoulos has published extensively on the safety aspects of IVF treatment, whixh in these cases has a complication rate well below one in 1000.
There is some evidence of higher miscarriage rates in pregnancies from frozen thawed eggs. But these studies are limited in scope as only around 2,000 babies have been born worldwide from frozen eggs. It is also important to know that as you get older, there is more risk of pregnancy-related complications and health problems to both you and your baby.
Egg freezing is still a relatively new procedure and the number of women coming back to thaw their frozen eggs is still limited. Success rates for these women are good, although success – as in IVF – depends on the woman’s age and the quality of the thawed eggs. Please enquire with Dr Christopoulos so that you may be given your projected success rate, based on your individual circumstances and medical history.