Egg Freezing and Storage

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing is a method of preserving a women’s eggs, for use in future fertility treatment.

Some women wish to freeze their eggs for medical reasons, for example if they need to undergo cancer treatment, or are diagnosed with other illnesses which have a risk of early menopause.

Other women wish to freeze their eggs to give them a greater chance of conceiving at an older age. This is sometimes termed ‘social egg freezing’.

Egg freezing

How are the eggs frozen and fertilised?

A recent approach, referred to as ultra-rapid freezing or ‘vitrification’, has been shown to minimise the risk of damage to the egg during freezing. Egg damage was a frequent problem in the early years of egg freezing.

With the advent of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – a technique in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg - it is now also possible to achieve similar fertilisation rates with fresh and frozen eggs.

What is involved in the egg freezing process?

The egg freezing process involves administering injections to stimulate the ovaries. Patients will typically give themselves injections of ovary-stimulating drugs for 10-12 days. They will make visits to the clinic during this period, for both blood tests and scans to ensure that the drugs are working properly. Clinic visits will allow the woman’s fertility specialist to adjust medication levels, if required.

After ovary stimulation, the eggs are collected under sedation. This procedure is done in theatre and takes 20-30 minutes. Following egg collection, you will require a recovery period of a few hours in the clinic before going home.

Egg freezing process

Image provided by CRGH

What is abdominal egg collection?

The abdominal route is used if the patient’s ovaries are difficult to access. It can also be performed if cultural or religious factors make the transvaginal route (in which the eggs are collected via the vagina) inappropriate or undesirable.

Transabdominal egg retrieval is performed under general anaesthetic. The doctor reaches the ovary using a needle through the abdomen, guided by a continuous ultrasound signal.

Abdominal Egg Retrieval © CRGH

Abdominal Egg Retrieval © CRGH

Is egg freezing right for me?

Although the clinic cannot make this decision for you, you should get as much information as possible from your fertility specialist, to help you to make an informed decision about whether egg freezing is right for you.

Although egg freezing may assist you to have a baby in the future, it is not a guaranteed approach to parenthood and should not be relied upon as a “fail-safe” route to having a baby.  

CRGH recommend egg freezing to those that have been diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, which requires treatment that may affect fertility, or for women who have a family history of early menopause.

At what age can women freeze their eggs? Is there an upper age limit?

Fertility starts to decline in women at the age of 35. The best age for women who have no partners to freeze their eggs is between 35 and 40.

Mr Paul Serhal, Medical Director, The Centre for Reproductive & Genetic Health

What are the risks of egg freezing?

Egg collection is a relatively non-invasive procedure that carries minimal risk.

Stimulation of the ovaries has been associated with a low-risk complication known as as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (or OHSS). However, CRGH have adopted a novel stimulation approach that radically reduces the chances of triggering OHSS.

How long can eggs be stored?

The law allows the storage of your eggs for any period up to 10 years. However,if you or your partner are prematurely infertile, or likely to become prematurely infertile, you may store eggs for up to 55 years.

The causes of premature infertility include chemotherapy treatment, or early menopause. Although consent may be given to store eggs for up to a maximum of 55 years, your medical practitioner will need to prove written certification that the medical criteria for premature infertility have been met. If the criteria have been met, the storage period will be extended by 10 years, from the date the criteria are met.

The storage period can then be extended by additional 10-year periods (up to a maximum of 55 years) at any time within each extended storage period if the criteria continue to be met.

The content was provided by The Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health ("CRGH") for Gynii Me.

About CRGH

CRGH was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in London. CRGH is renowned for pioneering new fertility treatment and preimplantation screening of embryos for detecting disease or abnormalities. The Clinic is headed up by Mr Paul Serhal, a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and a leading specialist in Reproductive Medicine (Learn more about CRGH).