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Why has egg freezing increased in popularity?

Why has egg freezing increased in popularity
Why has egg freezing increased in popularity

New statistics from the HFEA’s report Fertility treatment 2017: trends and figures show that egg freezing is the fastest growing fertility treatment with a 10% increase in cycles in 2017.  We speak to Giles Palmer, Senior Embryologist and Business and Quality Manager at the LWC Cardiff to understand why egg freezing has increased in popularity.

Egg freezing statistics

Egg freezing cycles have increased in number since records started in 2010.  The HFEA report shows only 410 cycles recorded in 2012 compared to 1,462 in 2017.  The number of patients returning to thaw their eggs has also increased from 159 cycles in 2012 to 581 in 2017.

Why are more women freezing their eggs?

 “IVF technology has advanced over recent years and we can now provide tangible solutions to those considering fertility preservation.” Giles explains.

There are many reasons, both medical and social why women choose to preserve their current fertility status:

  • Due to the toxic effects of medical treatments such as Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy in cancer patients
  • Women may wish to delay motherhood
  • To store eggs before gender reassignment
  • Women with a family history of premature menopause
  • Due to a high-risk occupation such as military service

The reasons indicated in the HFEA report for women choosing to freeze their eggs include delaying childbirth and better education around fertility preservation, particularly for patients with cancer or transgender patients.

“Now that there are more opportunities and methods to preserve one’s own fertility,” says Giles, “it is important to obtain the correct information, advice and counselling to make the correct choices concerning long term fertility issues.” The LWC provides free counselling to all our patients before, during and after egg freezing treatment.

Vitrification

The vitrification method has given rise to increased success in egg and embryo freezing.  The word vitrification is derived from the Latin word “glass”.  “Unlike previous freezing techniques which gradually lowered the temperature of the egg,” describes Giles, “this method of ultra-fast snap freezing relies on the unique properties of the water molecule to form a glass like state of solidification and not ice when frozen suddenly.”

Egg freezing success

The success of vitrification has significantly improved pregnancy rates and has become a routine procedure in IVF laboratories. “The LWC has years of experience in vitrification and through our collaboration with the London Egg Bank we have a robust programme of egg freezing. Our success rates for 2018 show a pregnancy rate of 51% from frozen eggs of women under the age of 35.” Giles explains. 

Egg freezing success depends greatly on the age of the woman, so it is advisable to freeze eggs before the decline in fertility.  “Evidence shows that if eggs are frozen before the age of 35, the chances of success will be higher than that of natural conception as the woman gets older.” says Giles.

Egg storage

Since 2000, the HFEA has allowed storage of frozen eggs for cancer and other health conditions that may result in premature menopause. Although egg storage for medical reasons, like the above, is for up to 55 years the storage of eggs for social reasons is for only 10 years.

The LWC’s Chief Executive, Dr Kamal Ahuja, and Executive Medical Director, Mr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, are spearheading a call to extend the 10-year storage period through a series of campaigns including articles in the public and scientific journals.  The campaign is gathering support from industry leading fertility experts urging the government to overturn these potentially discriminating fertility rules.  You can read more about it here.

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