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A guide to egg freezing: what every woman should know

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In recent years, egg freezing has become a popular method of preserving fertility, but it comes with its complexities and challenges. So, here’s everything that you need to know

In a world where career aspirations, personal goals and unforeseen life events increasingly influence family planning, egg freezing presents itself as a beacon of hope for many women. The procedure, technically known as oocyte cryopreservation, allows women to preserve their fertility until they’re ready to embark on the journey of motherhood. But what considerations do we need to bear in mind beforehand?

Egg fertilisation

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing is a medical procedure where a woman’s eggs are extracted, frozen and stored for future use. Initially developed for cancer patients at risk of losing their fertility due to chemotherapy, this technique has now become a more mainstream option for women who are interested in delaying having children.

Why consider egg freezing?

Women are opting for egg freezing for various reasons, from medical issues affecting fertility to personal and professional life choices. Amilis, a UK fertility and egg freezing hub, provides tailored guidance for women undergoing the process. “Just yesterday, we chatted with a 35-year-old whose husband had left her out of the blue. Given they were planning on having kids soon, she was panicking about how her fertility might rush her next relationship. We guided her through her options based on her age, future plans and egg count.”

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test tube illustration of egg freezing
everything you need to know about egg freezing

 What does the process involve?

Egg freezing doesn’t come without its demands. The process involves hormonal injections for eight to 11 days to stimulate egg production, followed by a surgical procedure to retrieve the eggs. Typically, seven to 14 eggs are collected per cycle, although this number may vary. When ready for use, the eggs are thawed and fertilised with sperm for potential pregnancy.





 How much does egg freezing cost?

The financial aspect of egg freezing is substantial. The average cost in the UK for egg retrieval and freezing is £3,350, plus additional costs for medication and storage (this varies depending on the clinic). Thawing and transferring eggs to the womb costs around £2,500, totalling an average of £7,000-£8,000 for the entire process. It’s worth noting, though, that some workplaces cover egg freezing as part of their health insurance package.

 What are the success rates of freezing your eggs?

While egg freezing has seen improvements in success rates, managing expectations is crucial, as it’s not a guaranteed path to pregnancy – although IVF pregnancy and birth rates from frozen embryos have increased since the 1990s.

Dr Anita Mitra, a gynaecologist known as The Gynae Geek on Instagram, emphasises the need for a nuanced understanding of egg freezing: “I think because a lot of celebrities have done it, it’s kind of sold as this empowering thing. And while it can offer hope for some women, it’s crucial to have realistic expectations regarding success rates, which vary. I encourage people to consult the HFEA for reliable statistics and speak to a fertility doctor to discuss their personal options.”





Personal experiences: highs and lows

Victoria Webb froze her eggs at 34 while working as a chief operating officer in the city: “I had a good income, but I’d always struggled with relationships. I didn’t have a partner, and when I turned 30 I felt a strong maternal instinct. I know that as time goes on, fertility declines, so I decided to do it as an insurance policy. I did three rounds in the end, which cost me £15,000.”

Along with the financial burden, there’s the toll it can take on mental and physical health, too: “It is a lot to go through on your own, and you’re injecting yourself with hormones. So, you’re quite delicate and you can’t exercise. I was very foggy and kind of nuts.”

Victoria then went on to create embryos with a gay friend. This process involves fertilising the egg with sperm to form an embryo, which can then be implanted into the womb to create a baby.

“We drew up a co-parenting agreement. We were going to do 50/50. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out between us as friends, so the embryos now can’t be used [the UK law states that embryos can only be used if both parties have consented]. “I spent a lot of money. I spent a year of my life. I went through all that and used 10 eggs, and I’m probably not going to get a baby from those [the embryos], so they’re kind of wasted,” says Victoria.

Having endured all that, though, Victoria doesn’t want to discourage other women from doing it: “I still have seven eggs left in the freezer. It does give reassurance, which is really important.”

This point is echoed by Sophie Richards, aka The Endo Spectrum on Instagram, who underwent egg freezing at 26 due to endometriosis: “I had serious emergency surgery and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to lose my ovaries or not.”

 

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A post shared by Sophie Richards (@theendospectrum)

“So, when I woke up, I realised that I never wanted to be in that situation again and I decided to book in with a fertility clinic. The tests showed that my biological fertility age was much higher than my actual age. So, that’s why I chose to freeze my eggs. As much as it’s painful, traumatic and really difficult to go through, I would go through it 10 times over again for the relief that I have now.”

Which UK egg freezing clinic should I choose?

Those considering egg freezing face numerous decisions, from choosing the right clinic to determining how long to store their eggs. With the law now allowing egg storage for up to 55 years from the date that the eggs, sperm or embryos are first placed in storage, women have more flexibility in planning their futures. Still, staying informed and considering all aspects of this significant decision is essential: “All good fertility clinics do free information sessions, and I think they’re really good,” says Dr Anita. “You don’t even have to go to a lot of them in person as they often host webinars. You can just pop it on when you’re on the sofa at home and this can provide a great first step in getting key information.”

So, is egg freezing worth it?

The answer is deeply personal. For some, it’s a priceless opportunity to align their reproductive choices with their life’s trajectory. For others, the emotional toll and uncertain outcomes render the decision more complex. By understanding the procedure and success rates and listening to those who’ve walked this path, women can make informed choices about their fertility and future.

Words: Lisa Glover

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