The number of women choosing to freeze their eggs is growing, especially now there’s a more effective technique available – but it doesn’t come cheap
Until now, having your eggs harvested and then frozen – to enable you to delay your fertility – has mainly been the preserve of Hollywood celebrities. US TV presenter Maria Menounous (35 and single) admitted she was having her eggs frozen, saying: ‘For me, this is important, because now we can show women there is an option if you need it and if you think it’s right for you.’
But while success rates have been low – with only an estimated 2,000 babies born from frozen eggs worldwide, according to USC Fertility in California – a new technique is improving chances that it could become a real option for more women.
The new technique
According to UK fertility expert, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Jeannie Yoon, old fashioned freezing rates have not been great, but the latest development, a technique called vitrification is changing that.
Old fashioned freezing rates have not been great, but the latest development, a technique called vitrification is changing that
‘It’s had fantastic results in America and is now increasingly available in the UK,’ says Jeannie. ‘Before they freeze the eggs they remove all the water particles so that the water particles don’t destroy the egg during storage. The eggs are then frozen much faster than before and the success rate is far better.’ This is the technique you want to ask for, she says.
So, if you’re in your 30s and it feels like Mr Right is nowhere near to making an appearance, could this really be a good baby back up plan? Well, it still costs between £3000 to £5000 to have your eggs harvested, approximately the same as an IVF cycle, with a further £100 per year to pay on top of that to store your eggs, and then at least another £3000 for IVF when you're ready to use your harvested eggs. But as success rates improve, it’s worth it for some women.
'It’s not just a good insurance policy, it’s the only one you can buy right now,’ says Jeannie. ‘But at the moment no one can accurately tell you the success rate of either slow egg freezing or vitrification, there’s just not enough data. Only something like 200 babies have been born from frozen eggs here in the UK.’
When to act
Some experts suggest there is up to a one in three chance of having a baby. Others claim success rates are as high as 50 per cent. But most experts agree success depends on the woman's age and the number of eggs that the clinic manage to remove from the ovary .
Jeannie's other advice is, don’t leave it to late. ‘To harvest your eggs at around your late 20s early 30s is the ideal time,’ says Jeannie. ‘However, if you were to meet Mr Right at 46 those eggs frozen at 37 are going to start looking like a good option.’
To harvest them, a similar extraction method to IVF is used, which involves a thin needle being inserted into your vagina (after anaesthetic) and into the follicles in your ovaries to retrieve the egg, guided by an ultrasound scan. According to consultant gynaecologist and medical director of The Poundbury Clinic, Mr Michael Dooley, ‘Egg freezing certainly has a huge potential, but it’s still very early days.’
This week, we've launched our It's Not Just You #Fertility campaign to support you wherever you are in the trying to conceive journey.
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