Fertility Preservation for Women
What is Egg Freezing and What Does It Cost?
Thanks to amazing advances in technology, fertility preservation is now a far more viable option to consider for women who may have trouble conceiving in the future, due to various reasons.
Fertility preservation for women refers to the process of freezing a woman’s eggs, her embryos, or, potentially, her ovarian tissue. This may provide a chance to conceive in the future, should she be unable to conceive on her own.
In this article, we look at why a woman would want to preserve her fertility for a future date, discover more about egg freezing as an option for female fertility preservation, and find out how to preserve your fertility today, what the possible risks are and what it will cost.
Why Would You Need To Preserve Your Fertility?
There are many reasons why a woman may need to preserve her fertility, notably for medical reasons, but also for personal reasons.
Among the medical reasons for preserving fertility are factors that can damage a woman’s ovaries or the quality of her eggs. For example, a woman may have to take certain medications that can damage her eggs, or she could be facing rapidly decreasing egg numbers due to a genetic cause.
Another medical reason is endometriosis, a progressive disease that can impair ovarian function. In the western world, more and more women and particularly more younger women, are suffering from endometriosis. This has resulted in more women looking for solutions for fertility preservation.
A woman may also be considering fertility preservation because she is facing planned surgery to remove her ovaries, or chemotherapy or radiation therapy that can damage her eggs.
Reproductive-age women diagnosed with cancer and requiring chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments that can typically lead to infertility by destroying the eggs, are also candidates for fertility preservation. Cancer therapy can destroy fertility and the risk of being infertile after cancer treatment depends on the type of treatment, pre-treatment fertility status, and age.
An oncologist will be able to provide an estimate of the likelihood that the treatment will negatively affect fertility. Egg freezing provide these women the opportunity to preserve their fertility by freeze eggs before treatment.
Advancing age also negatively affect the quality of the eggs a woman produces. As women age, their reproductive capacity declines because their egg numbers – and the quality thereof – diminish. The likelihood of conceiving per given month of trying peaks at around age 30 and then decreases, with an accelerated decline after age 35 and a rapid decline after age 40.
This makes fertility preservation an option for those who wish to delay having children for personal reasons. For example, a woman may have a demanding career path, or perhaps she has returned to school to pursue an advanced degree and wants to delay building a family. She may not be in a secure relationship and wish to wait until the time is right.
Egg Freezing and Storage for Fertility Preservation
For those wishing to preserve their fertility, egg freezing and storage a much more realistic option thanks to as revolutionary technology called vitrification that is a new freezing technique.
Vitrification freezes the eggs at a very fast rate, so that the eggs are preserved without the formation of damaging ice crystals. The process has shown significantly improved survival rates for eggs than previously used slow-cooling techniques.
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we have years of experience in egg cryopreservation. This means that we are able to provide you with an expert medical opinion about your current and future reproductive potential as well as your eligibility for egg freezing.
How to Preserve Your Fertility Today
Before egg freezing is done at Medfem Fertility Clinic, you will meet one of our fertility specialists for a comprehensive consultation to review all of your options.
Your fertility specialist will perform various tests to determine your current reproductive potential (ovarian reserve) and to predict your egg yield from an egg freezing cycle. The serum FSH (fertility thermostat) blood test and ovarian ultrasound resting follicle studies are mandatory in order to determine the most optimal stimulation protocol for you, with the aim of maximising egg numbers while achieving undiminished egg quality.
The next step in the treatment process involves the preparation of your ovaries for the production of mature eggs needed for the freezing process. It begins with taking fertility drugs, followed by the administration of fertility medications designed to allow your ovaries to begin the growth of the eggs that will be frozen.
Once the eggs have matured adequately, your fertility specialist at Medfem Fertility Clinic will collect the eggs during a relatively pain-free procedure under a light sedative. The procedure has a rapid recovery, usually within two or three hours.
After collection, your eggs are prepared by one of our embryologists in our cryopreservation laboratory for freezing via vitrification. Following the freezing process, your eggs are transferred to a liquid nitrogen storage chamber until you are ready to use them.
Studies have shown that there is tremendous variability in the ability of eggs to tolerate the freezing process. They have also shown that within a single group of eggs frozen, some will survive and others will not. Among those eggs that do survive the freeze and later thaw, some will be fertilised when exposed to sperm and others will not.
The successful fertilisation of cryopreserved eggs is greatly enhanced through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI.
Remember that the survival rates for eggs following freezing depend on the quality of the eggs before freezing. On average only about 70% of the eggs frozen will survive the freezing and thawing process. Of the surviving eggs, about 65% of these in turn will fertilise in response to ICSI (intra cytoplasmic sperm injection).
Based on published peer-reviewed medical literature, there is an approximate overall 4% live-birth rate per egg thawed for cryopreservation using vitrification. This means that if 10 eggs are frozen, then there will be 40% chance of a live birth. The success rate of freezing eggs can be equated with the success rate of undergoing a cycle of in vitro fertilisation which correlates with age: 50% if under 30 years of age, 40% for ages 30-36, 33% for ages 37-40, and 20% for ages 40-42.
What Does It Cost To Freeze Eggs?
The cost of freezing eggs consists of the primary visit, investigations or tests and the required medication, of which the most crucial is your consultation and ultrasound with your fertility specialist.
The tests include Hormonal Blood testing, and infection tests including HIV, Hepatitis B and vaginal infection tests.
The cost of the egg freezing program is approximately R58,000 at the time of writing. While the cost is easy to determine in numbers, the value of having a backup plan if you have problems falling pregnant at a later age is invaluable. Another fertility preservation option is embryo freezing – read more about that in our article Fertility Preservation for Women – What is Embryo Freezing and What Does It Cost?
Your Next Fertility Preservation Step
We invite you to contact us for an updated cost by clicking here or contacting us on +27 (11) 463 2244. We would be happy to answer your questions about fertility preservation and we look forward to meeting you!