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25-09-2018

Freezing eggs does not mean that women are guaranteed a child, it can be stressful, expensive, unsuccessful and unnecessary. Various surveys have found the main reasons given for egg freezing include not having sufficient financial means to support a child yet, choosing to focus on a career, health issues and not having a partner. Many couples choose to freeze frozen embryos instead as the embryo is more robust than eggs and survive the freezing and thawing process with more success. According to the American Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, (SART) about 500 women froze their eggs in 2009. SART removed the " experimental" label from the procedure in 2012 and more women have been taking advantage of the technology each year, the US fertility marketer EggBanxx predicts 76,000 women will have frozen their eggs by the end of 2018.

Freezing eggs sounds easy, but fertility treatments are invasive and physically and emotionally difficult. The process involves IVF, with taking drugs to boost egg production and help eggs mature, then collecting the eggs from the ovaries using an ultrasound guided procedure while you are under sedation. The eggs will be frozen either by cooling or a newer process, vitrification ( fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. Most women will have about 25 eggs collected, but this depends on ovarian reserve, which is strongly associated with the woman's age.

In Australia, the average age of women freezing their eggs is 37 years, the highest live birth rates from previously frozen eggs comes from women who undergo the procedure before they are 30. Recent data suggest that to have a 75% chance of having one live birth, a 34 year old would need to freeze ten eggs, a woman undergoing the procedure at 37 would need to freeze 20 eggs . The birth rate with previously frozen eggs per embryo transfer is around 19%. Research suggests that women should seek to freeze about 15 eggs to have a reasonable chance of successful pregnancy in the future.

There is no Medicare rebate for egg freezing in Australia. The costs of egg collection and freezing vary between clinics, but expect to pay $7000 - $10,000 per round and about $500 per year for storage, There will be costs involved when you return to use your eggs. The standard storage period for eggs is 10 years, although this can vary between Clinics and states. An extension can be applied should you be using the freezing and storing because of premature infertility.

Some women do experience side effects from the fertility drugs, in extreme cases women develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Not all eggs survive the freezing and thawing process and it is possible for none of the eggs to survive. The number of women having treatment using frozen eggs is low. Between 2010 and 2016, about 500 babies were born through frozen eggs in the UK. The new freezing method, vitrification has been demonstrated to have higher success rates, but there is no current evidence demonstrating the long term safety and reliability of this freezing method.

Freezing eggs is a rapidly changing field, it is important to chose a Clinic with significant experience and who openly discuss their own success rates with you at your appointment. You should ask to see success rates by age and not from published data from other clinics.

Several studies in 2016 and 2017 have  shown that only 6-8% of women who had frozen their eggs returned to use these eggs, with only one in three successfully having a child.

At fertilitysociety.com.au you can find information regarding how to chose an IVF clinic, questions to ask at the first appointment and how to understand success rates. 

How to choose an IVF clinic and understand success rates

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