Apple and Facebook made the news when they announced that they were to offer egg freezing to their female employees alongside extended maternity leave, adoption assistance and infertility treatments. This is an interesting development and one that BBC Radio Cambridgeshire was keen to discuss with Dr Thomas Mathews, UK Medical Director at Bourn Hall Clinic (October 16th 2014).
While Bourn Hall was the pioneer in sperm freezing and this technique, along with embryo freezing, is well established and successful, egg freezing is a relatively recent innovation.
So far, only a small number of babies have been born using thawed eggs. Whilst techniques and success rates are improving, there’s no guarantee the procedure will successfully lead to a healthy baby.
Egg freezing process
The medical procedure involves a woman’s eggs being collected, just like a conventional cycle of IVF, and then being frozen unfertilised on the day of egg collection. They are then stored for a maximum of 10 years. Extensions to the storage period are permitted if the woman has a medical condition that is likely to make her prematurely infertile. Then the stored eggs will be thawed and inseminated with sperm. The resulting embryo is transferred using the same procedure as in a conventional IVF embryo transfer.
At Bourn Hall Clinic, we provide egg freezing as an option when it might offer you the only chance of having your own biological child, for example before chemotherapy.
Dr Mathews says: “Egg freezing should not be seen as an option for all young women. There is no denying that women are at their peak fertility potential in their 20s and early 30s, and a pregnancy at this age is the natural and safest path.
“Many women have successfully combined their career progression with having and bringing up children. For some women who choose to defer childbearing, egg freezing may be a viable option, but these women must be aware that there is no guarantee that the eggs will thaw out successfully and give rise to a pregnancy.”