BBC Health Reporter Smitha Mundasad and her cameraman colleague Tobias Chapple spent the day in the LWC Harley Street laboratory in mid-February. They had privileged access behind the scenes witnessing an egg collection procedure and meeting with embryology staff to understand the egg freezing process.
The team also met one of our success egg freezing patients, Ali, who froze her eggs at the age of 41 in 2007. She later thawed out her frozen eggs in 2012 and now has twins Molly and Monty who have now just turned 5.
I always thought that I would be a mum one day but for various reasons it hadn’t happened. I realised that even if I did meet someone new we wouldn’t want to rush into having children – and I also knew that my eggs were aging by the day. So, if I wanted biological children in the future, I realised I had to take action.
I didn’t mind the stimulation injections and the only side effect was that my ovaries felt heavy – not surprising really as 27 eggs were harvested.
After freezing the eggs, I got on with my life and waited for ‘Mr Right’. However, things changed as I approached my 47th birthday. I knew I wanted a child and it was now or never. I realised that with so many different types of family out there having a donor as a dad was just part of the mix. So, with advice from the Donor Conception Network, in 2012, I decided to use my frozen eggs and get pregnant.
The process is hard. You get called to say how many eggs have survived the thawing and have fertilised, and then how many have survived and are dividing well. But for me it wasn’t looking good. Out of the 18 eggs I thawed only three made it to the fifth day, but they weren’t dividing fast enough. I had all three surviving embryos transferred. The likelihood of having multiple births at my age was extremely small.
I was ecstatic when my pregnancy test was positive. My beautiful twins Molly and Monty were delivered in February 2013. Everyday I am amazed that they are here. They are my miracles.
You can view Ali’s full video story on the LWC website here.
The egg freezing process
If you’re considering freezing your eggs the first step is to attend the clinic for a fertility check or “Fertility MOT” to understand your fertility better. This includes a blood test to check your ovarian reserve and a pelvic ultrasound scan to assess your womb and ovaries. Based on your results one of our specialist fertility consultants can advise you on your fertility and advise you whether egg freezing might be right for you.
Once you’ve decided to freeze your eggs, you will start taking medication to stimulate your ovaries. Over around a two-week period you will have a number of monitoring scans to assess how your ovaries are responding to the medication you’ve been given. Once they have reached the correct stage we will give you a “trigger” injection to mature your eggs ready for egg collection.
The egg collection procedure involves taking some mild sedation which will make you fall asleep for around 10-15 minutes. An ultrasound guided needle will be passed through the wall of your vagina into each of the follicles that have developed. The fluid containing the eggs is then handed over to the embryologist to collect any eggs. A mature egg should be obtained from most of the large follicles.
After the egg collection you can go back to life as normal the next day. You may feel some mild abdominal discomfort. In the meantime, any mature eggs that are collected will be frozen and stored for future use. In the UK, eggs frozen for social reasons can be stored for up to ten years.
Find out more
Smitha’s video report is available to view on the BBC website and will be discussed on the BBC Radio 4 programme Beyond Today from 5pm on 19th March. For more information about egg freezing, please get in touch or come along to one of our regular free events.