Freezing and Storing Eggs

Eggs are the all-important female sex cell needed for assisted reproduction through IVF and ICSI. During these fertility treatments, many eggs are needed for fertilisation, and so drugs are used to stimulate and boost egg production. This technique can be used to generate eggs that can be frozen in liquid nitrogen for future use. The process remains very new and is still in a trial phase, at present only 5 live births have occurred through the use of frozen eggs.

Why would I freeze and store my eggs?

Frozen eggs can be used in fertility treatments at a later date, and are a particularly popular option for patients who are about to undergo a treatment (most often chemotherapy for cancer) that can render them infertile. They can also be used to keep a store of eggs if you are concerned about the inevitable decline in fertility that comes with age, leaving you with the option to conceive as you get older.

How are eggs frozen?

Firstly your doctor will talk to you about egg freezing, what it involves, and the potential risks. You are likely to have access to a counsellor able to give you good advice about what to do following treatment if you want it. If you give your consent for the procedure to go ahead you will first be screened for illnesses like hepatitis and HIV, and then provided with fertility drugs which stimulate egg production. You will then have your eggs collected and placed in a freezing solution before being frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen.

The written consent form is the means by which you determine what you want to be done with your eggs. You can instruct that you want your eggs to be first stored and then used in your own fertility treatments, you can decide how long you would like your eggs to be kept in storage for you, and whether you would like to donate any eggs for another’s treatments. You are entitled to change your mind about consent before eggs are used for anything you’ve given permission for you, in which case your wishes will be respected and the eggs not used.

How long can frozen eggs be kept in storage for?

Eggs can be stored for as many as 10 years, and it is only in particular situations that they are stored for any longer. A discussion with your clinician is the best way to establish how long you want or can store your eggs for.

What are my chances of a live birth if I use frozen eggs?

So far only 5 live births have come about as a consequence of the use of frozen eggs, which is far from enough to be able to determine the success of the procedure overall. The technique has only been in use for under 10 years here in the UK, but so far it has been established that unlike sperm and embryos, eggs do not react well to the freezing process, resulting in a fairly low rate of success. The technique is constantly evolving however, and a recent advancements have been shown to increase success rates.

At present the figures in the UK are:

  • 6,000 eggs have been stored.
  • Of these 150 viable embryos have been formed.
  • These embryos have been used for 50 cycles of IVF.
  • So far 5 live births have come from the original 6,000 eggs.

Risks of freezing and storing eggs

The main risk that comes from this process is the healthy chance that an egg (or eggs) won’t survive freezing. Your doctor should make sure that you understand that at present, the technique has poor egg survivability, but also that the method is always evolving and will continue to do so.

« Importing Sperm, Eggs, and Embryos Freezing and Storing Sperm »