It’s been a hot debate for years – are fresh eggs more likely to lead to pregnancy than frozen eggs?
Surf the internet for evidence about fresh and frozen eggs and which is best for IVF and you’ll end up scratching your head. There’s a lot of conflicting advice and medical information out there. Some experts say frozen is best, others completely disagree. Recent studies say that there is very little difference in success rates between the two. It’s probably best to say that right now there is no firm evidence either way.
Using frozen eggs is convenient, too. With a fresh egg, timing has to be exact between the cycles of the egg donor and the patient. Freezing does away with this, making it easier for everyone. The cost tends to be lower as well, because eggs from one donor can be shared among several patients.
What is egg freezing?
The use of frozen eggs in treatment is a relatively new development. Very few babies have been born in the UK after treatment using patients’ own frozen eggs (although more have been born from donor eggs). However, vitrification (a new method for egg storage) has recently been shown to improve the chance of eggs surviving the freeze-thaw process and therefore increase the success rate.
To help boost egg production, fertility drugs are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles (which contain the eggs). The developing follicles are monitored and when they are large enough, they are carefully emptied to collect the eggs that they have produced. They are collected while the patient is under sedation or general anaesthetic.
To freeze the eggs, they are placed in storage in liquid nitrogen.
Who should consider egg freezing?
- You have a bad reaction to fertility drugs or another medical or personal reason and you want to delay IVF
- You are about to undergo medical treatment that might affect your fertility
- You have a high risk job (e.g. Armed Forces)
- You are about to receive treatment for an illness which may affect your fertility
- You are due to undergo a sex change operation
When should eggs be frozen?
There’s no perfect age, but the earlier the better.
How long can the eggs remain frozen?
No one knows exactly, but it’s claimed they can be used successfully even after 20 years. There is generally a storage limit however of around 10 years through most clinics.
Cost of egg freezing
The cost of egg freezing varies from clinic to clinic, but typically you’ll pay £2000 to £3000. Egg storage may be included or charged at a few hundred pounds a year. It’s only provided on the NHS for cancer patients who face losing their fertility.
What control do you have over your frozen embryos?
You can specify how long you want the eggs stored and what should happen to them if you were to die or become unable to make decisions for yourself.
More information from the HFEA on freezing and storing eggs.