Elective egg freezing may be the answer for later life pregnancy

Pink background with woman holding a sperm cell
© iStock/Irina Shatilova

An article published by the CMAJ reveals how egg freezing can increase the chance of pregnancy at a later age in life.

The article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal explains how elective egg freezing is a viable treatment to help patients increase their chance of pregnancy at a later, more advanced age.

Elective egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation involves controlled ovarian stimulation, followed by an egg retrieval procedure. Patients considering this treatment are referred to a fertility specialist for evaluation and counselling regarding risks, benefits and alternative options.

Five things to consider with elective egg freezing:

Patients aged 35 years and older with normal ovarian reserve have the highest chance of later success, but future live birth cannot be guaranteed

According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, Ovarian reserve testing (ultrasound and blood work) assists in helping to predict the number of retrievable eggs and allows counselling of patients at risk of very low egg yield.

For patients aged 35 years or younger, about 14 mature eggs are needed for an anticipated 80% chance of future live birth, with more eggs required as patients age. Multiple egg freezing cycles may be recommended to achieve the desired number of eggs.

A swift 10-14 day process

Stimulation of the ovaries typically involves 8–12 days of injection medications and ultrasound monitoring. Two days later, a 5- to 10-minute ultrasound-guided transvaginal needle aspiration procedure is performed, at which time 1–2 days of rest are required. Eggs are stored at the fertility clinic and can be transferred to another location if needed.

The costs involved

When opting to freeze eggs, the treatment, it’s not usually covered by government health insurance. Total costs of the procedure range from $9000 (€8,222) to $17000 (€15,530) per cycle, however, private insurance may cover $3000–$8000 medication costs with an additional $300–$500 annual storage fee. Additional costs are incurred when patients return to use the frozen eggs to cover the thawing, fertilization and subsequent embryo transfer.

Frozen eggs don’t expire

Many patients do not use their frozen eggs however if used, eggs are thawed and fertilized with sperm to create embryos that are transferred into the uterus. Pregnancy rates are tied to the woman’s age at the time of egg freezing. Advanced maternal age is associated with greater risk in pregnancy and many clinics have an age limit after which they will not provide embryo transfer treatment.

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