Egg & Sperm Freezing

Egg Freezing

As women become older, their chances of getting pregnant begin to decrease. This decline starts after the mid-thirties and becomes even more pronounced over the age of 40. Freezing your eggs at a stage in your life when the ovaries are capable of producing high quality eggs is therefore a sensible option for fertility treatment in future years.

Modern technology has allowed us to see a significant improvement in the egg freezing technique. Those who could potentially benefit include:

  • Women concerned about their fertility declining with age
  • Young women with family history of premature ovarian failure (POF)
  • Young women with a low ovarian reserve who are not ready to have children yet
  • Women who do not have a partner but decline egg donation if needed later in life
  • Women who do not have a partner but do not want to use donor sperm to create embryos
  • Women who feel as though egg freezing is ethically more acceptable than embryo freezing
  • Couples who may have ethical issues regarding discarding unused frozen embryos and would prefer discarding unused unfertilised eggs
  • Those who are at risk of injury or death, e.g. member of the armed forces deployed to a war zone
  • Women about to undergo gender change operation
  • Women facing medical interventions (such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and some operations) that could damage their future fertility

Additionally, as societal norms change, particularly in global cities such as London, many women postpone having children for other reasons, including career aspiration, late marriage, or financial barriers.
There is a general lack of awareness in regards to the female fertility timeline (the biological clock) and the availability of egg freezing. Couples should be encouraged to consider parenthood sooner rather than later and society should work towards a social framework that is financially and structurally supportive of young families.

Fertility preservation should not compromise a young woman’s future chances of spontaneous conception throughout her natural reproductive lifespan. Egg freezing is considered a back-up insurance policy. If you never use your frozen eggs because you have achieved your desired number of healthy children, you can donate your eggs, either for research or to help an infertile woman, or you can discard them.

Egg Freezing, Technique and Storage
Preparation for egg freezing is no different to that of IVF. First, you’ll be assessed in order to help us choose an appropriate protocol and drug dose for ovarian stimulation. After 10-12 days of injections, the eggs are matured with a final trigger injection and collected 36 hours later. Egg retrieval is performed under intravenous sedation. Only mature eggs are frozen.

To use the eggs later in life, they are thawed and injected with sperm, using a technique called ICSI. The resulting embryos are replaced into the woman’s uterus a few days later.

According to the HFEA Code of Practice, you may store your eggs for up to 10 years. However this period can be extended under special circumstances for up to a maximum of 55 years.

Clinicians have a duty to inform patients that a woman aged 40 or above is more likely to achieve a healthy pregnancy using embryos that were created in her mid-30s than using fresh embryos over 40 years old.

Success and Safety
Evidence to date indicates no increase in chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects or developmental defects of children conceived from frozen eggs. On the contrary, using eggs frozen at a younger age can reduce the risk of miscarriage and the risk of genetic and chromosomal abnormalities in children born to women over the age of 35.

Current Status and Success
The success rates of frozen and thawed eggs are similar to those of fresh eggs and there are no increased risks for the mother or the baby. There might actually be benefits of lower miscarriage rate and chromosomal abnormalities due to the younger age of the eggs at the time of retrieval.

It is estimated that you might need 10 frozen eggs to have a live birth. This number of eggs can be produced in one or more ovarian stimulation cycle based on your age and your ovarian reserve. Mathematical calculation indicates the following expected live birth rate:

Age Live Birth Rate based on 10 Frozen eggs Live Birth Rate based on 6 Frozen eggs Average No. frozen eggs in one cycle Live Birth Rate per egg freezing cycle
25 34.6% 31.3% 10 34.6%
30 27% 24.1% 8 25.5%
35 20.5% 18.1% 6 18.1%
40 15.3% 13.4% 5 13%
42 13.5% 11.8% 3 10.7%

Unfortunately the average age of women freezing their eggs is currently around the 37-38 year mark, which does not result in high success rates.

We encourage younger women in their late twenties and early thirties to freeze their eggs if they are considering delaying parenthood.

Egg banking at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy
Here at the Fertility & Gynaecology Academy, we are pleased to offer our patients:

  • The latest technology and equipment
  • Expertise in ovarian stimulation including close monitoring with scans and hormone level tests to ensure that the resulting eggs are mature and freezable
  • Freezing with vitrification
  • Egg freezing cycles that include the drugs and freezing process if you are under 35 with average ovarian reserve. If not you can still benefit from the package but you’ll have to pay for the extra drugs you need. See Fees for more details.
  • Affordable annual storage.
  • If you do not need your eggs you can donate them to another woman, or offer them for use in research.

Sperm Freezing

The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy offers a comprehensive sperm freezing service. Men who might benefit from this include:

  • Those who have a low sperm count or are producing sperm that is showing signs of deterioration
  • Patients due to undergo surgery, chemotherapy or some other treatment that could impair future fertility
  • Anyone who has difficulty producing a sperm sample on the day of treatment
  • Those who are at risk of injury or death, e.g. member of the armed forces deployed to a war zone
  • Patients who have produced a surplus as a result of surgical sperm removal (PESA/TESA)

Not all of the sperm survive the freezing process. Therefore, to assess the sperm survival after each freeze, we perform a thorough analysis. To tie-in with legal regulations we can only store sperm for a maximum of 10 years. During this time, the genetic content of sperm remains unaffected and the survival of sperm after the freezing process is very high.

Consent must always be obtained by the male patient before the sperm is stored.