Ask a fertility expert: Egg freezing FAQs

Written by: Dr Irfana Koita
Edited by: Sophie Kennedy

Fertility preservation is a term used to describe a range of treatment options for couples or individuals interested in postponing conception to a later date. Egg freezing is the process whereby a woman’s eggs are retrieved and then frozen, ready to be thawed, fertilised and transferred to the woman’s womb and carried to full-term pregnancy at the preferred time. In this article, renowned fertility specialist Dr Irfana Koita shares her expertise to answer frequently asked questions about this ever more popular procedure.





Why do people freeze their eggs? What advantages does it bring?


The principal advantage of egg freezing is that it offers people more time to consider their conception options, whilst being able to make use of a store of good quality eggs when the natural reserve may have depleted. In previous years, egg freezing was only available to patients suffering from certain genetic conditions which may decrease fertility over time or to women who required certain treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, so as to preserve eggs that may not otherwise survive.


Nowadays, however, many people may wish to retrieve and preserve eggs for other reasons. Commonly, women may wish to freeze their eggs because they are emotionally or financially unprepared to conceive or perhaps because of career reasons, they would be better placed to start a family sometime in the future. Whether personally, medically or financially motivated, egg freezing can offer people reassurance when it comes to planning a family.



Is there an ideal time to have eggs frozen? How long can eggs be frozen for?


As is well known, the decline in fertility after a woman reaches her late thirties affects the likelihood of success of natural conception. This is also true of fertility preservation procedures and as such, retrieving and freezing eggs prior to a woman’s early thirties makes the process much more likely to be effective.


The later on in life that the egg freezing procedure is undertaken, the more expensive it is likely to be. This is because a greater number of egg retrievals may be required to collect the desired quality and quantity, due to the body’s natural ageing and subsequent decline in producing eggs.


The legal time limit for frozen eggs to be stored is currently ten years, which is something patients should take into account when family planning. The ten year storage limit will be replaced with a right for individuals or couples who freeze eggs, sperm or embryos to be asked every ten years if they want to keep or dispose of them, up to a maximum of fifty-five years.

[The extension will need a change in the law. However, the Department of Health and Social Care has not indicated how and when that will happen. Legislation will be introduced when there is enough parliamentary time available to debate it, it is understood.



How can patients prepare for egg retrieval in the months, weeks or days before?


After an initial consultation where a woman’s suitability for the procedure is assessed, some further tests to determine fertility fitness and general health will be undertaken. The fertility specialist may make specific recommendations for patients based on the results of these tests and a treatment plan will be prepared.


In the next steps of the egg freezing procedure, women undergo a phase referred to as ovarian stimulation for around two weeks; where the body is encouraged to produce eggs. This is done through different forms of medication and injections and throughout this phase, the patient is monitored to assess how the body is responding to the treatment.



What can patients expect on the day of egg retrieval?


Normally the medication used to stimulate the ovaries is stopped shortly before the eggs are to be collected. On the day of egg retrieval, the patient is sedated and eggs are retrieved using a long, thin needle which passes through the vaginal wall. The collection procedure only takes around fifteen to twenty minutes.



Are there any side effects patients may experience after the retrieval procedure?


Some patients take pain relief, such as paracetamol, in the days following the procedure to relieve any discomfort. There may be some vaginal bleeding, which should settle after a few days on its own. In very rare cases, there is a possibility of sustaining an infection from the procedure but this is usually avoided by providing the patient with antibiotics during the retrieval.


After undergoing the retrieval procedure, women should only engage in gentle exercise, such as walking, for the six to eight weeks following the retrieval, so as to not strain or twist the ovaries which enlarge during the stimulation phase. After the egg collection, a woman’s menstrual cycle may be irregular but periods will settle over the months that follow.



If you are interested in egg freezing or other fertility preservation procedures, you can book a consultation with Dr Koita by visiting her Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Irfana Koita
Fertility specialist

Dr Irfana Koita is an expert fertility specialist in London who specialises in fertility diagnostics, egg freezing, IVF, preimplantation genetic diagnoses, polycystic ovaries and endometriosis. She also treats patients with fibroids and experiencing recurrent miscarriage. Dr Koita is a fertility consultant at LycaHealth and IVF Matters Fertility Clinic, where she is also a director.

Since achieving her medical degree from Grant Medical College in 1998, she has gained over 18 years of experience as a fertility specialist. She trained at King's College Hospital London NHS Trust and has achieved both membership and fellowship of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). She also holds a Master's in Healthcare Leadership from the prestigious Cornell University.

Dr Koita is the founder and director of IVF Matters, the UK's first online fertility clinic. She offers both video consultations and in-person consultations within the clinic at Harley Street and Canary Wharf, London for all fertility issues. Throughout her career, she has arranged numerous events spreading awareness of fertility issues and empowering women. Her health advice has been featured in The Times, Daily Mail and Grazia.

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