What Age Should You Freeze Your Eggs?-image

What Age Should You Freeze Your Eggs?

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of egg freezing—but most importantly whether or not there is a perfect age to freeze your eggs. Read on to find out.  Quick facts: If you’re considering egg freezing, get in touch to see how we can help. Why egg freezing is becoming so popular According to the HFEA (Human Fertilisation & Embryo Authority), egg freezing and embryo storage cycles are the fastest-growing fertility treatments in the UK.  More people than ever are turning to egg freezing and assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) to help them navigate their future fertility. Having children later in life is also becoming the norm. The Office of National Statistics found that more and more people are turning 30 without having had children. Between “biological clocks”, careers, relationships, medical history, genetic conditions, family expectations and more, fertility planning is tricky business.  Why fertility treatments are on the rise could be explained by a few factors. More people are looking to conceive later in life when natural conception is harder. More same-sex couples and people pursuing solo parenthood are accessing fertility treatments to conceive. And general awareness around treatments is increasing. Understanding egg freezing As you age, the quality and quantity of your eggs decline, which means getting pregnant and sometimes staying pregnant becomes more difficult. Freezing your eggs will preserve their quality as they are now, ready for when you want to have a baby.  Known medically as “oocyte cryopreservation”, egg freezing is a medical procedure that involves having your ovaries stimulated with hormones so that they produce multiple eggs. This is instead of a single egg, as in a typical natural menstrual cycle.  These unfertilised eggs are then surgically removed, frozen and stored in a fertility clinic until you’re ready to use them. The egg-freezing cycle, from ovarian stimulation to egg retrieval, takes around two weeks. You can learn more about the egg freezing process here, including a detailed breakdown of the steps.   Egg freezing can be both physically and emotionally draining. Additionally, it can cost up to £8,000 in the UK.   Egg freezing offers an opportunity to preserve your fertility if you plan on having children in the future. Maybe you want more time to focus on your career, travel the world or just haven’t found the one yet. Or perhaps you’re about to undergo medical treatments or gender-affirming therapy that could affect your fertility.  Egg freezing allows you to live this part of your life without worrying so much about your fertility. It takes the pressure of having to decide whether to have a baby now.  It’s important to note, though, that egg freezing isn’t a fail-safe method for having a baby, and its success relies on healthy eggs and a healthy reproductive environment. Generally, younger eggs are healthier eggs. If you’re considering egg freezing, at Hertility, we support you through the egg-freezing process with our partner clinics.  What is the best age to freeze your eggs? Technically, you can freeze your eggs at any age before menopause, but The earlier you do, the better your chances of having a pregnancy. Eggs retrieved in your 20s and early 30s usually result in better outcomes than those in your late 30s and 40s.  In our early to mid-twenties, we are at our most fertile, but there’s still only a 25-30% chance of us getting pregnant each cycle naturally. That number drops as the years go by—at 40, it’s only 5%.  Age also increases the risk of pregnancy-related complications like miscarriage, genetic disorders in the baby and gestational diabetes, especially after your mid-thirties. Despite the best time to freeze our eggs being under 35, the average age is 38. This potentially means that a lower quality and quantity of eggs will be retrieved, and you may need more cycles to collect enough eggs. Who is egg freezing for? There are a few instances where you may be considering egg freezing as a viable fertility preservation treatment. These are roughly split into what’s known as medical egg freezing and social egg freezing.  More obviously, medical egg freezing is when you freeze your eggs for a medical reason, for example when a medical procedure or diagnosis might increase your risk of infertility. You might choose medical egg freezing if you’re diagnosed with cancer, need cancer treatment like chemotherapy or radiotherapy, are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or you’re having gender-affirming therapy. Genetic conditions might also influence the decision to freeze your eggs. To increase the chances of being able to have a baby in the future, women or those AFAB with a family history of early menopause or another genetic condition might consider egg freezing as a precautionary measure. The other type of egg freezing, known as elective or social egg freezing,  is more about life choices. This could include holding off on family plans because of career goals, ticking things off your bucket list or just because you’re not quite ready to have kids right now.  Your relationship status could be a deciding factor too. Maybe you haven’t found the right person, or you have but you’re both not ready for children yet. Previous difficulty with fertility might make you want to freeze your eggs as a proactive measure, or religious and cultural expectations might come into play too. Is there an egg freezing age limit? Although there’s technically no age limit for egg freezing, specific fertility clinics might impose one. This stems from the likelihood of live births reducing dramatically after 40. Fertility clinics might set age limits for various reasons, including ethical concerns. The journey of egg freezing and fertility preservation can be quite a ride, both emotionally and physically. When the odds of a successful pregnancy are slim, clinics may put age restrictions in place to safeguard the health and well-being of their patients. If you’re aged 40 or over and considering freezing your eggs, connect with a fertility advisor for personalised advice. As you age, your ovarian reserve naturally declines. An AMH (Anti-Müllerian […]

Five Personal Accounts of Navigating Egg Freezing-image

Five Personal Accounts of Navigating Egg Freezing

For women or those assigned female-at-birth, society ensures that as we age, we’re hyper-aware of our declining fertility. Jokes about our ticking ‘biological clocks’, extended family constantly asking when we’re going to ‘settle down’ and even trying to navigate company maternity policies—it can feel really overwhelming. There are many different pathways to parenthood and for a lot of people, either for medical or social reasons, their fertility timeline just doesn’t line up with where they are at in their personal or professional lives. Luckily, advances in reproductive science are enabling many people to access fertility treatments, like egg freezing, to preserve their fertility.  We spoke to five people, all with different circumstances, who have undergone egg freezing. We hope these accounts can help you to understand a little bit more about the egg freezing experience. Recap: What is egg freezing? The egg freezing process (known medically as ‘oocyte cryopreservation’) is a fertility preservation method and medical procedure that involves having your unfertilised eggs surgically removed from your ovaries, frozen and stored in a lab until you’re ready to use them.  You may choose to freeze your eggs if you want to have children in the future, but aren’t ready to yet. As you age, the quantity and quality of your eggs decline, which means your chance of getting pregnant does too. Freezing your eggs will preserve their quality, as they are now, for if and when you become ready to use them. There are two types of egg freezing: The egg freezing process An egg-freezing cycle involves several different stages including preliminary tests, ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, storage and then subsequently thawing once you’re ready to use them. Egg-freezing can be incredibly empowering—allowing you to control your family planning timeline and focus on your personal and professional life, or any medical treatment, without having to worry about your fertility decline.  However, it can be an intensely emotional journey full of ups and downs, with financial strain, daily injections, and hormonal changes that can affect your mental and physical health.  Remember—if you’re going through this process, Hertility’s fertility counsellors can support you through these challenges. While the procedure is generally safe, there is a small risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which is a condition that can happen in response to fertility medication. For more information, read our egg-freezing guide. Natalie Getreu’s egg freezing journey Ovarian biologist and one of our very own co-founders, Dr Natalie, had a unique egg freezing experience after having been both a fertility practitioner and patient.  “I thought I knew everything about egg freezing, at least from a scientific standpoint. I’d supervised procedures, sat in on consultations, educated women and delivered lectures on treatments.  But when it came to undergoing the process myself, as a patient, it was a completely different experience.  I definitely didn’t fully appreciate the physical toll it would take, how draining it would be emotionally, or how much I would have to relinquish control to the process and just let my body do what it needed to do in response to the treatment.  Probably the biggest thing I came to appreciate was how much I needed to slow down. As a founder, there is an enormous pressure to be available 24/7, and as a woman, for everything to be done perfectly. There often doesn’t feel like we are afforded the space to slow down, but I realise now how important that is. The whole process made me have a much deeper appreciation of the lack of education and awareness out there about alternative routes to parenthood. If you’re thinking about undergoing treatment, get as much info as possible. Support is out there no matter what your circumstance is’.” Asher’s egg freezing journey “I discovered the importance of [egg freezing] the same day that I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and recommended for Testosterone HRT. Luckily, this is when I was introduced to Hertility – finally some humane guidance, clarity and crucially being seen and understood as a trans person. The whole process became much clearer and felt more manageable, and honestly I started to feel inspired by the gift of being able to do this. The actual process wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined, especially in relation to triggering my dysphoria.“ Georgia Habboo’s egg freezing journey “The reason I did this was that I had not had a period since coming off the pill (it had been 3.5 years) and I literally was getting no answers from doctors after 10,000 tests. I did the hormone testing kit which I’m SO grateful for. My AMH, which is an indicator of your egg reserve (ovarian reserve), was really low – within the range of a 55-65-year-old, so they recommended that I freeze my eggs straight away”. Daniella Abraham’s egg freezing journey “At age 30, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to have a baby. Although I wanted the option to have kids in the future, I didn’t want to feel pressured into trying sooner than I might have done just because of my ‘biological clock’. Honestly, the hardest part was deciding if the process was right for me, but in the end, I’m so glad I chose to do it. “Freezing my eggs has given me reassurance that I didn’t need to rush into making any major life decisions and given me peace of mind that I will have the option to start a family in the future when I’m ready to.” Mish’s egg freezing journey “As I approached 35, I knew I wanted to freeze my eggs. I didn’t want to feel pressured to have a baby just because of my biology. But I had no idea if I would be able to  – I knew you can only get screened on the NHS if you’re trying, so I assumed I would just have to wait until then. “That’s when I found Hertility. I took a Hertility test which allowed me to see if I had any issues in advance of starting […]

Research News: Real-World Outcomes of Egg Freezing-image

Research News: Real-World Outcomes of Egg Freezing

Pioneering new egg-freezing research has been published by Hertility Doctors, Dr Lorraine Kasaven and Dr Benjamin Jones. Read on for a summary of their findings on the optimal age to freeze your eggs. Quick facts: Is it worth freezing your eggs in your 40s? This is one of the most frequent questions our Doctors get asked by women over 40. The answer, to date, has been—there really isn’t enough data to answer this confidently.  So, in true Hertility fashion, where the data doesn’t exist, we make it our mission to change that. This month, two of our Hertility Doctors, Dr Lorraine Kasaven and Dr Benjamin Jones, published a new study, ‘Reproductive outcomes from ten years of elective oocyte cryopreservation,’ using data from 373 women over ten years to find out the answer to this question once and for all. Their findings suggest that women should get their eggs frozen before the age of 36 to increase their chances of successfully conceiving.  Whilst previous research focused on the number of good quality eggs successfully frozen, Dr Lorraine and Dr Ben’s research looked at the real-world outcomes. Basically—what happened when women tried to use those successfully frozen eggs to get pregnant?  The research outcomes Of the 373 women who froze their eggs, only 36 returned to use them. Those 36 women went through a total of 41 frozen embryo transfers which resulted in 12 live births.  None of those who froze their eggs after the age of 40 had a baby. 82% of the babies were born to women who froze their eggs between the ages of 36 and 39 years of age. This research therefore suggests that egg freezing is a viable option for having children later in life but it’s not a ‘fail-safe’ way of preserving your fertility.  This research indicates: One step closer to closing the gender data gap We are immensely proud to have our doctors flying the flag with such important research. This research directly arms our doctors with the most up-to-date research for patient consultations.  It’s another small step forward in our universal understanding of female reproductive health and a giant step towards empowering the lives of women everywhere to have kids (or not) on their terms.  Read the full paper here.  References:  Kasaven, L.S., Jones, B.P., Heath, C. et al. Reproductive outcomes from ten years of elective oocyte cryopreservation. Arch Gynecol Obstet306, 1753–1760 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-022-06711-0

Egg Freezing Process: What is it and is it Right For Me?-image

Egg Freezing Process: What is it and is it Right For Me?

Egg freezing is a fairly new procedure, allowing you to preserve your fertility. But what exactly is egg freezing and what does the egg freezing process entail? Read on to find out. Quick facts: Egg freezing There’s no doubt about it, egg freezing has become a biology buzzword. And with good reason too.  Egg freezing can be a great option for many people, including those of us who want to become parents one day but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge just yet. Or those who have a reproductive health condition that could affect their fertility.  But what exactly is egg freezing? And how do we know if it could be right for us? Before we jump into the egg freezing process, let’s quickly recap on why we even need egg freezing in the first place. What is your ovarian reserve? As people with ovaries, we’re born with all the eggs we’ll ever have—known as our ovarian reserve. Unlike men, who produce sperm throughout their life, women have a limited supply of eggs.  We are all born with around 1-2 million eggs but by the time we hit puberty, we have around 300,000 left and this slowly declines as we get older. This decline increases more sharply post the mid-30s. Unfortunately, as we age, both the quality and quantity of our eggs decline (cheers biological clock). This means that as we get older, we stop ovulating as consistently and the eggs we do release aren’t quite the spring chickens they once were. So, as we age and our ovarian reserve declines, getting pregnant naturally also becomes harder. What is egg freezing? Egg freezing is what’s known as a ‘fertility preservation method’ that quite literally involves putting your eggs on ice for later use. Egg freezing involves using fertility medication which stimulates your ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. Those eggs are then removed from your ovaries and frozen and stored in a laboratory, until you’re ready to use them. Eggs are frozen in what’s known as an ‘egg freezing cycle’. You may want to do multiple rounds to increase your chances of retrieving a larger batch of healthy eggs.  How many eggs can you freeze in one cycle? The number of eggs you can freeze in one cycle depends on how many eggs you’ve got left, how well you respond to the fertility medication and how successful the retrieval is.  Some retrievals will, unfortunately, yield no eggs that are suitable for freezing. Whilst in others, you may be able to retrieve dozens of eggs.  The whole process is what’s called an ‘egg freezing cycle’. We will explain each stage in detail below. It’s important to note that egg freezing is not a fail-proof method and its success relies on healthy eggs. The egg freezing process Step one: Blood tests and scans First things first, you’ll undergo several different blood tests to check your reproductive hormone levels as well as testing for infections like HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.  Testing your Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) levels can also give you a good initial indication of your ovarian reserve and how viable egg freezing is for you. You will also have a pelvic ultrasound scan to assess your ovarian reserve better by having a look at the number of follicles in your ovaries, known as the antral follicle count (AFC) i.e. an estimate of your egg count.  This step is also essential for deciding if this process is right for you and whether you have enough eggs to successfully do an egg freezing cycle.  Step two: Ovarian stimulation Depending on the results of your blood work and scan, your doctor will work out the best protocol, dosage of medication and how many cycles you might need.  You’ll be given fertility medication that will stimulate your ovaries. Your ovaries usually mature and ovulate only one egg during each menstrual cycle, but this medication encourages them to mature more eggs so multiple eggs to be retrieved.  During this simulation period, which is usually around two weeks, you’ll need to attend pelvic ultrasound scans and take blood tests regularly to monitor the growth of the follicles which house your eggs.  When your doctor thinks your eggs are ready, you’ll be given a ‘trigger injection’ which matures your eggs fully, readying them for collection. The timing of this injection is important and the egg retrieval usually happens 36 hours afterwards. Step three: Egg retrieval It’s time to collect those eggs. You’ll undergo a minor egg retrieval surgery performed under general anaesthesia or sedation. A long, thin ultrasound-guided needle is inserted via your vagina to retrieve your eggs.  You can go home after an hour or two of the procedure. Some people do return to work the next day, while others also rest the day following the retrieval. You might feel slight pain or discomfort and notice some spotting after the procedure. Your doctor will guide you on aftercare. Step four: Freezing, storing and thawing Once your eggs have been collected, they’re passed onto an embryologist who checks they’re all good to go. They will then freeze (cryopreserve) your eggs in a method called vitrification. Your frozen eggs will be stored in your fertility clinic to be later thawed whenever you’re ready to use them. What happens when I’m ready to use my eggs? When you’re ready, your frozen eggs will be thawed, fertilised with sperm, either from your partner or a donor if needed, and allowed to develop into embryos in the lab before being transferred into your uterus via a thin, flexible catheter.  Sometimes people may opt to undergo add on testing such as genetic testing of the embryos before they are transferred to select the best quality embryo. This is not a required step, may not be recommended for everyone and may have an additional cost. Who is egg freezing for? Technically, anyone with ovaries. There are many, many reasons why we might decide to freeze our eggs. Maybe we’re worried about […]

What is Fertility Preservation and What Are the Different Methods?-image

What is Fertility Preservation and What Are the Different Methods?

Fertility preservation methods can be a great way for people to put having kids on hold, or preserve their fertility if they need to for medical reasons. Here we go through the main procedures available to women and those assigned female-at-birth. Quick facts: What is fertility preservation? Fertility preservation involves freezing your eggs, embryos, reproductive tissues or sperm, so they can be used in the future and you can hopefully have a biological family. For women or those assigned female-at-birth, there are a few different fertility preservation methods available. Which one is right for you will depend on your age, medical history and personal fertility goals.  Each method involves removing either eggs or tissues, freezing and storing them in liquid nitrogen—a process called cryopreservation. When you are ready to use them, they can be thawed and used to help you conceive.  These processes are all designed to help those at risk of potential infertility or to assist those who can’t conceive naturally. Who might use fertility preservation? There are lots of different reasons why someone may undergo fertility preservation. Generally, the reasons can be categorised as either medical or social preservation.  In the UK as of July 2022, you can store your eggs for 55 years for both medical and social reasons, as long as you renew your consent every 10 years. Medical fertility preservation Medical fertility preservation is for anyone undergoing fertility preservation for medical reasons. This could include possibly losing their ability to conceive naturally because of impending medical treatment. Reproductive health conditions Some reproductive health conditions such as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) and early menopause can affect fertility. Additionally, conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids might require surgery around the pelvic organs to manage it, your doctor may suggest fertility preservation before this in case there is a risk of damage to the ovary. Cancer Certain cancers and cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy (especially targeting the pelvic organs), or surgeries impacting the ovaries, can impact our fertility. Egg freezing may be suggested on a case-by-case basis for those who are looking to have children post-cancer treatment. Gender-affirming care If you’re undergoing gender-affirming care, you might want to preserve your fertility before starting hormone therapy or having reconstructive surgery. Although anyone with or undergoing the above may still be able to get pregnant naturally, there might be a risk of impacting their ovarian reserve, which may make it difficult to conceive. This is why considering fertility preservation is recommended before starting therapy.  Social fertility preservation Social fertility preservation is when you freeze your eggs or embryos for ‘social’ reasons. This can include if we are worried about our natural fertility decline with age, but we aren’t quite ready to have children yet. Or if we aren’t sure if we want children at all, but would like to keep our options open for the future.  As we age, our egg quantity and quality decline. This can make getting (and sometimes, staying) pregnant more difficult. Age, also increases the risk of pregnancy-related complications, like miscarriage, genetic disorders in the baby and gestational diabetes, especially after our mid to late 30s. In our early to mid-20s, we are at our most fertile—but there’s still only a 25–30% chance of us getting pregnant each cycle. This gradually reduces during our 30s to around 5% by age 40.  What are the different types of fertility preservation? Fertility-preservation options for women and AFAB people include egg freezing, embryo freezing, ovarian tissue cryopreservation, ovarian transposition and gonadal shielding. Egg freezing (Oocyte cryopreservation):  Egg freezing is a medical procedure which can help us to plan for our future fertility. It’s what’s known as a ‘fertility preservation method’, or scientifically speaking, ‘oocyte cryopreservation’. Egg freezing involves taking medicine to encourage the growth of the eggs in our ovaries, which will then be collected during a short surgical procedure. Viable eggs will be frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen (-196°C). They do not decline in quality—like they would do if they remained in your ovaries as you age.  These eggs can be thawed at a later date whenever you are ready to start a family through fertility treatment. This whole process is what’s called an ‘egg freezing cycle’.  Technically, you can freeze your eggs at any age before menopause, but eggs retrieved in your 20s and early 30s usually result in better outcomes than those in your late 30s and 40s. This is largely to do with the quality of the eggs at the time they are retrieved, as generally, our eggs begin to decline more rapidly from 35 onwards. Embryo cryopreservation (embryo freezing) This is a procedure that involves removing eggs from the ovaries, fertilising them with either a partner or donor sperm to create embryos and then freezing the resulting embryos for future use. Embryo cryopreservation would usually require an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle.  The egg retrieval process is similar to the one used in egg freezing. Once retrieved the eggs will be analysed in the lab by an embryologist and then fertilised with sperm from your partner or donor once. They are then placed into an incubator to allow the resulting fertilised egg (embryo) to develop.  The embryos are then frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen. Once you are ready to conceive, the embryo will be thawed, cultured and will be transferred to the uterus.  The number of embryos transferred is dependent on your age, the quality of the embryo(s) and if you have had failed IVF cycles in the past. It’s generally preferred to transfer just one embryo because this reduces the chances of complications associated with multiple pregnancies.  If you have good-quality embryos left over at this stage, you can opt to freeze them for future cycles, discard them or donate them to someone else. Sometimes, if a sufficient number of embryos are not collected in one cycle, your doctor will recommend another cycle. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation Ovarian tissue cryopreservation is the only fertility preservation option to help younger people who have not gone […]