The right time to start a family is in theory when you are ready, but inconveniently human biology is programmed for women to be at their most fertile when they are relatively young. For the majority of people this isn’t an issue, but if you are in your early thirties and not in the right place to have a baby you might be thinking about ways to preserve your fertility.
Why fertility falls at 35
To get pregnant you need healthy eggs. A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. Once she starts menstruating she produces a mature egg once a month. This is her ‘best egg’ there are many other immature eggs or oocytes in her ovaries that never make it to this stage and just degrade. So by the time you are about 35, the store is very depleted and eggs continue to be lost at a greater rate until about 45-55 when a woman reaches menopause.
After 35 years the eggs also tend to be of poorer quality and so the chance of conception reduce and the possibility of miscarriage increase.
Eva was diagnosed with a very rare condition which causes the uterus to be either underdeveloped or absent, but the ovaries, which produce a woman’s eggs, are unaffected. Eva decided to freeze her eggs at Bourn Hall whilst still in her 20’s to maximise her chance of storing eggs of good quality. After two egg collection procedures Eva has sufficient eggs in store for IVF treatment in the future using her partner’s sperm and a surrogate.
Women can go on to have children naturally well into their forties but this cannot be guaranteed.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51 when she has lost all her eggs. However, around 1 in 100 women experience a premature menopause before the age of 40. This knowledge can be very stressful, especially if you know that you want to have children some day but are not in position to start a family now.
Egg freezing – an insurance policy
As an insurance policy some women consider freezing their eggs while they are young. A woman of 45 using the eggs she produced as a 35 year old has the same chance of success as her younger self. Egg freezing requires the ovaries to be stimulated – so that instead of losing the premature oocytes they mature and a good number of eggs can be collected at the same time. The medication for this is the same used in standard IVF treatment.
Once collected the eggs can be frozen. If the woman then meets a life partner, or decides to use a sperm donor, the eggs can then be used for IVF by mixing with sperm to create embryos and these transferred to her womb.
If IVF treatment is required at a later date this will be considerably cheaper than undergoing a fresh cycle.
New egg bank launched
Bourn Hall is launching an egg bank at its new clinic in Wickford. The service will enable more eggs to be frozen and stored.
Bourn Hall fertility experts work closely with other health specialists and the majority of women using the service will be freezing their eggs as a result of a genetic condition (like Eva) or ahead of a medical procedure that might impact their fertility (such as surgery or cancer treatment), or where there is a family history of premature ovarian failure. Fertility preservation is also a good option for transgender patients to consider before any gender reassignment treatment to keep their options open for having their own genetic children in the future.
However, it will also be used for social freezing, for example, to take the pressure off looking for a life-partner or where a career break is not possible or desirable.
Special offer makes egg freezing more accessible to younger women
To increase awareness of the need for women to consider their fertility options before they reach an age that might restrict their ability to have children, Bourn Hall is offering free egg freezing for women under 35 who are willing to share some of their eggs and meet the criteria to be egg donors.
Sharing eggs is an altruistic action that is highly valued by women unable to use their own eggs for IVF and women sharing their eggs will be helping someone whose only chance of having a baby is through treatment with donor eggs. All donors receive counselling before making this choice.
This offer would mean that, after initial tests to confirm eligibility, there would be no charge for IVF medication, the procedure to collect the eggs or storage for the first year. Often when we are contacted by women wanting to freeze their eggs they find the costs off putting – this special offer makes egg freezing more accessible to women when they need it and helps increase the number and diversity of eggs available to other patients.
To find out more about egg freezing contact us