Egg Freezing is an increasingly common way for Australian women to try to future proof fertility. According to Fertility Specialist and Gynaecologist, Dr. Raewyn Teirney, health reasons still make up the majority of her patients who visit her for egg freezing, but a growing number are seeing her for personal and social reasons. Here, she explains the process.
Egg Freezing For Social Reasons
As a female fertility specialist, I would say at least 10 percent of my clinical practice comprises women who turn to egg freezing for social reasons, but it has become busier and continues to do so.
When speaking about social reasons, I’m referring to reasons that may encompass many aspects of a woman’s life. It could be that she hasn’t yet met the right man, or that she wishes to concentrate on her career or travel and therefore wants to delay having children until she is a little bit older.
Egg freezing provides a way to optimise fertility later in life. It means that her eggs stay the same age as they are when frozen. In other words, if a woman freezes her eggs at the age of 30 and decides to use them to start her family at the age of 38, they will still be 30-year-old eggs. Therefore, they have a better chance of being fertilised and leading to a healthy pregnancy and baby.
The other reason women turn to egg freezing is for health reasons. I see a lot of women who have received a cancer diagnosis and are about to undergo treatments that may cause infertility, or fertility struggles, down the track.
A large proportion of women who freeze their eggs for health reasons also have endometriosis. It may also be that they have undergone fertility testing that has shown they have a low reserve of eggs. At the time they may be single, but still hold hopes of becoming a mother, so they opt for egg freezing.
What Does The Process Involve?
The process falls under the IVF bracket. We typically start a woman on hormonal stimulation for 10 to 12 days to allow a number of eggs to mature.
We use a variety of hormone stimulating techniques and we can tailor this to each individual case. However, the stimulation medications are self-administered by a daily injection. We teach you how to do this in your introductory consultation. You may feel a little bloated, but otherwise there are no real side effects and you can carry on with daily life as usual.
Once the eggs are ready, we collect them. We first administer light general anaesthetic or sedation, before inserting an ultrasound guided probe into the vagina. A very fine needle runs inside the probe and it is gently passed through the vaginal wall into each ovary to collect the eggs. You can go home about one or two hours after the collection, but we recommend that someone accompanies you and that you don’t drive until the next day.
Once we have collected the eggs, we put them through a rapid freezing process called vitrification and we can then store them for many years. There is no time limit on freezing either eggs or sperm in Australia, however embryos, which are considered to be a potential human, can only be frozen for a period of 10 years, and after that they have to be destroyed.
How Many Eggs Should You Freeze?
We recommend freezing at least 15 eggs for a woman aged 35 and under. But as we age, we need to freeze more eggs to give a woman the best possible chance of conceiving. So, at 40 years old you would need at least 30 eggs frozen.
Often women only need one round of IVF to achieve this, but some need more, sometimes a few rounds. Every case is unique and individual, and we treat each patient according to their unique needs.
How Much Does Egg Freezing Cost?
The cost will vary, depending on whether a woman chooses to freeze her eggs for social reasons, or she needs to do so for medical reasons. If she chooses to freeze them for social reasons, the costs are AUD$11,000. If the reason is medical, she is often/usually eligible for Medicare, in which case out of pocket expenses are reduced to AUD$5000. This includes women who have received a cancer diagnosis, those with endometriosis, or those whose egg reserves are low and may experience early menopause.
Edited by Shonagh Walker