In light of the UK government announcing plans to extend the time a woman can freeze her eggs from ten to a maximum of 55 years, we spoke to Angeline Beltsos MD, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Vios Fertility Institute, and asked her to explain in more detail what it means to freeze your eggs
Time is not on our side in regards to fertility and if you are not ready to start having a child right now, you need to consider what family building choices that you have.
Therefore, we must contemplate freezing eggs if not ready for pregnancy.
- How many eggs does a woman have?
The baby girl growing in her mother’s womb has 5-6 million eggs. By the time she is born, 80% of the eggs have dissolved leaving her with 2-3 million eggs to have for her life. Every egg is stored in a small water balloon called a follicle cyst living deep in the ovary’s savings account of eggs. Your eggs are as old as you and they will continue to age with you. Eggs age faster than the rest of the body. At 40 years old, the egg has a 30% chance of making a baby. Over time, the eggs lose their zest and energy resulting in a lower chance that the egg will make a baby.
- What choices do I have to save my fertility?
Up until recently, we had no real solution. The only option was to start trying for pregnancy. With the new success of egg freezing, women can now put their fertility on hold. Have you not found Mr. Right yet? Are you still in your pursuit of higher education and not ready for pregnancy? The answer then is: Freeze your eggs!
- What makes egg freezing possible?
Freezing FAST: Vitrification is a technology of freezing eggs which allows the delicate egg to have a 90% chance of surviving being frozen. The old way was slow freezing which created ice crystals and freezer burn so by the time eggs were thawed, they no longer worked to make an embryo. Two important events occurred: Italy banned freezing fertilized eggs and so the Italian doctors searched for what to do with extra eggs they had from IVF. Japan started vitrifying or fast freezing eggs and found it worked. Voila! One group had a need; another group had a solution. This catapulted the technology forward.
- What is the first step to take to freeze eggs?
Check the pulse of your fertility and egg health by doing a simple blood test and ultrasound. This combined test is called ovarian reserve testing and includes a day 3 FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), estradiol, and AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) as well as an ultrasound of your ovaries. The ultrasound counts how many eggs are visible for that month which is called AFC (antral follicle count). You can also come to Vios Fertility Institute’s Center for Egg Health Excellence to check your ovarian reserve and have a free MD consult in person or by SKYPE. Be informed and know where your eggs stand. Call 866.258.8467 or go to our website www.viosfertility.com to register for your egg health test: Vios Pulse and your visit with one of our doctors.
- What is the process like?
The process is 2 weeks of medicine to prepare your body. The medicine is a shot that makes your eggs grow. We watch eggs grow by doing intermittent ultrasounds and blood tests then eggs are gently removed with an office procedure called Egg Collection. Using an ultrasound, it is performed by a consultant/doctor and then eggs are immediately frozen. That day you rest at home and in 2 weeks your next period starts and you are back to your regular cycle.
- What are the risks or concerns about egg freezing?
It requires a procedure with a light IV anesthesia. There is a small needle used to draw out eggs like when you have blood drawn but you are asleep so it does not hurt. Your ovaries will be slightly swollen so limit exercise. You will be extra fertile so not being sexually active is important. A relevant point is that egg freezing does not promise a baby. Eggs have a 90% chance in our lab of surviving the freeze and then work as good as fresh eggs in young women. Babies born from frozen eggs seem to be as healthy as from fresh eggs. The technology is young and we continue to learn about how to make this technology work better. It does not appear to have long term side effects that we know of at this time. Some women will do more than 1 egg collection to get 15 eggs. The older a woman is the less chance it is to work.
- What is an ideal age?
Ideal age is late 20’s or early 30’s. But women can freeze in their twenties, thirties and forty. After 40, the chance of eggs surviving and making a baby will decrease. So what should you do? Freeze NOW. The longer you wait, the less chance it has of working. Also, if you are over 36 years old, then consider freezing some fertilized eggs with partner or donor sperm to optimize the chance of having a baby with these eggs.
- How many eggs do I need to collect?
It seems somewhere between 10-20 eggs is ideal and we strive to get 15 eggs at the Vios Center for Egg Health Excellence. To give you a good chance that in the future they will work, a good number of eggs is important. We have special financial programs to assist in optimizing the number of eggs obtained with multiple retrievals if needed.
- How much does it cost?
The items include the pre-testing, the egg collection process, the medicine, and the freezing and storage. Egg freezing typically runs $5000-7000 USD. (3823-5352 British pounds).
- What if I am willing to use partner or donor sperm?
If you are willing to fertilize, then freeze fertilized eggs called embryos. They work even better! Frozen embryos survive at a rate of 95-98% and work as good as fresh embryos.
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney
Get on with your with dreams! For your fertility choices, remember to be actively intentional: Get pregnant now or freeze your eggs!
To read more on Angeline Beltsos MD and CEO of Vios Fertility Institute, Chicago click here
Read more about the change in UK law: