health

‘I asked an expert my 6 most pressing questions about freezing my eggs. Here’s what she said.’

If there’s one phrase in the English language guaranteed to p*ss a woman off, it’s “biological clock”.

It’s that prickly term that rears its head in a snide remark from an aunt, or that nudge from a friend when you’re single and happen to no longer be 16.

But the modern day woman now has the option of freezing her eggs – meaning she has more autonomy when it comes to how, and when, she chooses to have a child.

The problem, however, is that for most of us, the idea of freezing our eggs is complex and scary. What does it involve? How much does it cost? How old are you meant to be when you do it?

Manman’s egg freezing journey. Post continues after video. 

We asked Dr Lynn Burmeister, a fertility specialist with more than 20 years experience, our six most burning questions about freezing your eggs.

How old do you have to be to freeze your eggs?

Every woman is different so the best age to freeze eggs varies but as a general rule the best biological age to freeze your eggs is really about the same as the optimum age to have a baby: in your mid to late 20s.

Currently the average age of women proactively freezing their eggs is 35 and it is coming down as more women understand how to increase the chances of success.

Freezing eggs in your 20s may sound very young, but it offers you the best chance of success. Women are born with their entire supply of eggs — approximately 1 to 2 million at birth – unlike men, whose bodies create new sperm indefinitely. As you get older your egg count and quality of those remaining eggs decreases. At puberty you have 400,000 eggs and by age 40 only about 4 per cent of your eggs remain and continues to fall until menopause.

Listen to Rachel Corbett and Zoe Marshall discuss egg freezing on Before the Bump. Post continues after audio.

There isn’t technically an egg freezing age limit, but the treatment is most effective and valuable for younger women and best to do before you turn 35. As you become older it becomes more difficult for your ovaries to respond to the stimulation medication used during egg freezing and other fertility treatments, and you’re more likely to need multiple cycles to achieve a number of eggs that give you a good chance for pregnancy later.

What does the process look like?

The first step of this procedure involves going through a fertility and health assessment. The fertility assessment is to determine the quality and quantity of your eggs. Both assessments include pelvic ultrasounds and blood tests. The next steps are:

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1. Ovarian stimulation: The process itself is relatively simple: women self-administer injections of hormones to stimulate their ovaries and cause ovulation “on demand” and encourage the ovaries to release multiple eggs (instead of the usual one.) During this time, you will be monitored with scans to see how the eggs are maturing. Once the eggs are matured, you will administer a ‘trigger’ injection or a nasal spray around 36 hours before the egg retrieval procedure.

2. Egg retrieval: Once the eggs have matured, they are collected using a needle which is inserted through your vaginal wall while under an anaesthetic.

3. Freezing: Immediately after the retrieval, your eggs are taken to the lab, where they are snap frozen to subzero temperatures.

Does it hurt?

The 20 minute egg extraction process is an in-patient procedure and you will be sedated to avoid pain. You will not need any stitches since the physician does not perform any incisions.

After the procedure, you should be able to resume your normal activities in a couple of days unless you develop complications, which is very rare.

How much does it cost?

The cost of an egg freezing cycle varies by clinic, but typically at No.1 Fertility you will be out of pocket $2500. There are additional costs associated with fertility medication and hospital costs. To store the eggs it costs $400 per annum.

If you have private hospital cover, the cost of your time in hospital may be covered, but check with your health fund.

Egg Freezing is not typically covered by Medicare unless your Doctor has diagnosed you with medical infertility.

What’s the success rate?

Freezing your eggs is not a 100 per cent guarantee of having a baby. I encourage women with frozen eggs not to rely on them, but rather see them as a backup.

There are strong biological reasons why the overall success rate is higher for women in their mid twenties to early thirties. As you get older, the chances of achieving pregnancy with frozen eggs starts to drop. Each egg is estimated to have between a 6 to 12 per cent chance of a pregnancy but this will vary and decline with age. Every patient is unique, and your success will depend on your particular ovarian reserve and egg quality at the time of freezing.

Revolutionary developments in the technology of egg freezing in the past couple years have significantly improved the chances of success. Vitrification is a new flash freezing method which can preserve a woman’s eggs without damaging them, and store them indefinitely without affecting their quality. Using this method more than 85 per cent to 90 per cent of frozen eggs now survive the warming process – much higher than the success of 10 years ago.

Are you thinking of freezing your eggs? Tell us in the comments section below!

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