Bourn Hall pioneered sperm freezing which, along with embryo freezing, is a well-established technique. In comparison, egg freezing is a relatively recent innovation and in 2013 the first frozen egg baby was conceived at Bourn Hall.
Why freeze your eggs?
Egg freezing 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.
Egg freezing provides an option for fertility preservation and may, for example, be considered before chemotherapy, surgery affecting fertility or prior to hormonal and surgical treatment for gender dysphoria, which can impact fertility.
Frozen eggs can be stored for a maximum of 10 years until they are ready for use in fertility treatment with a partner or surrogate, depending on the individual circumstances.
IVF advances, like egg freezing, have opened up opportunities for more transgender people to benefit from fertility preservation.
Dr James Barrett of the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) refers about six people for transgender fertility preservation every week – and there are 17 other clinicians in the GIDS practice.
Greater awareness of what is possible, and also the promise of more appropriate treatments, mean more transgender people are considering their options for having a family in the future.
The timing of the process is important and Dr Barrett recommends, where possible, that individuals seek advice about their fertility options before starting hormone therapy.
Patient centric care
It was Bourn Hall Senior Embryologist Charlotte Taylor who suggested changing the clinic’s protocols to reflect the increase in demand for egg or sperm freezing from transgender people.
Charlotte explains: “Transgender people often receive counselling through their gender identity clinic, and at Bourn Hall our dedicated fertility counsellors are also available and equipped to provide support.”
As a result of Charlotte and Dr Barrett’s work, Bourn Hall has developed a new pathway of care, improved protocols and new information for transgender patients who may be interested in fertility preservation.