A process that enables the scientists to store eggs for future use in fertility treatment. Vitrification is a fast/instant freezing process and has been proven to result in less damage to eggs compared to the old freezing method.
Egg freezing is a method of fertility preservation designed to allow patients to have a family at a later date. The process involves collecting the patient’s eggs, freezing them, and then thawing them whenever the person is ready in order to use them in a fertility treatment.
For female patients, or for patients who are non-binary or transgender but were born female and still have their ovaries, chances of conception will naturally fall as they get older. This is because the number and the quality of their eggs will decrease over this time. Egg freezing can help to avert this, especially if the patient is younger when the eggs are frozen because they will be of the highest quality.
Experts would normally recommend that you freeze their eggs if:
- You have a medical condition or need treatment for a medical condition that is likely to affect your fertility, such as cancer
- You are at risk of injury or death (for example, if you are a member of the Armed Forces and being deployed)
- You are currently female but transitioning to male, and wish to preserve your fertility before starting hormone therapy or having reconstructive surgery
- You are worried about your fertility declining but are not ready to have a child or haven’t yet found a partner you want to have children with (this is also known as “elective egg freezing”)
- You don’t want to have any leftover embryos after IVF treatment for ethical reasons
Before you will be allowed to freeze your eggs, you will first have to undergo several screenings and tests to ensure that you do not have any infectious diseases. These include HIV and Hepatitis. Under the regulations set out by the HFEA, the results should not affect your ability to freeze your eggs, though it must be noted that not every unit will be able to store virology-positive samples. As such, many will not offer this as a service.
GENNET City Fertility has the necessary insurance to handle virology-positive samples. However, we do not have separate facilities available to protect the operator (including separate storage tanks, etc.). Because of this, we cannot offer the service, either.
In light of this information, any patients who wish to receive treatment at our clinic (regardless of gender) will have to test negative for HIV-1 and HIV-2, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Patients undergoing Timed Sexual Intercourse (TSI) or Ovulation Induction (OI) treatments will not need to have this virology carried out.
After this, you will start the IVF process, which should take around 2 to 3 weeks to complete. In this time, you will take a series of fertility drugs or medications that help to boost egg production and maturation. When they are ready to be collected, the eggs will be retrieved in an operation carried out under local or general anaesthetic.
Once the eggs have been collected, instead of then being mixed with sperm (as would happen in an ordinary cycle of IVF), they will have a cryoprotectant solution added to protect them. The eggs will then be frozen, either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast or flash-freezing). Latest statistics have shown that vitrification has a higher success rate than the slow cooling method.
You will need to complete a series of consent forms before you start any treatment which involves egg freezing. This specifies how you would like your eggs to be used, and includes information on:
- How long you want the eggs to be stored (the standard period is 10 years)
- Whether the eggs will only be used for your treatment, if they can be donated to someone else’s, or whether they can be used for research or training if you don’t want to use them
- What should happen to your eggs in the event of your death, or in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself
- Any other conditions you may have for the eggs’ use
You will be able to vary or withdraw your consent for this at any time, either before treatment or before the eggs are used in research or training.
Eggs that have been frozen and then thawed must be fertilised using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (a fertility treatment otherwise known as ICSI). This is because the freezing process makes the outer protective coating of the eggs tougher, and sperm may be unable to penetrate it naturally.