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Egg freezing

Egg freezing is a method of preserving a woman’s fertility so she can try and have children at a later date. This page will explain how the process works, its success rates and risks.

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing is one way of preserving a woman’s fertility so she can have a family in the future. It involves collecting a woman’s eggs, freezing them and then thawing them later on so they can be used in fertility treatment.

Some women freeze their eggs because they have a medical condition or are undergoing treatment that affects their fertility. However, it can also be used by women who aren’t ready or able to have children and want the chance of conceiving in the future.

A woman’s chances of conceiving naturally fall as she gets older because the quality and number of her eggs drops. Egg freezing is an attempt at preserving fertility by freezing the eggs when the woman is young and the eggs are of the highest quality.

Is egg freezing right for me?

You might want to consider freezing your eggs if:

You have a medical condition or need treatment for a medical condition that will affect your fertility, such as cancer (in this case NHS funding may be available depending on where you live).

You’re worried about your fertility declining but you’re not ready to have a child or you haven’t found the right partner – this is often called ‘elective egg freezing’.

 

You’re at risk of injury or death (for example, you’re a member of the Armed Forces who is being deployed to a war zone).

You’re planning to have a sex change operation.

You don’t want to have leftover embryos for ethical reasons.

What does egg freezing involve?

Firstly, you'll need to be tested for any infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis. This has no bearing on whether you can freeze your eggs or not but is to ensure that affected egg samples are stored separately to prevent contamination of other samples.

You'll then start the IVF process, which usually takes around two to three weeks to complete. Normally this will involve taking drugs to boost your egg production and help the eggs mature. When they’re ready, they’ll be collected whilst you’re under general anaesthetic or sedation.

At this point, instead of mixing the eggs with sperm (as in conventional IVF) a cryoprotectant (freezing solution) will be added to protect the eggs. The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen.

Most women will have around 15 eggs collected although this isn’t always possible for women with low ovarian reserves (low numbers of eggs). When you want to use them, the eggs will be thawed and those that have survived intact will be injected with your partner’s or donor’s sperm.

How much does egg freezing cost?

The average cost of having your eggs collected and frozen is £2,500 to £5,000. Storage costs are extra and tend to be between £150 and £400 per year. Make sure you get a fully costed treatment plan from your clinic so you're not caught out by unexpected 'extras'.

Costs and funding

Stack of coins

How safe is it?

IVF is mostly very safe, although some women do experience side effects from their fertility drugs. These are usually mild, but in extreme cases women can develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is potentially fatal, so you should familiarise yourself with the symptoms. 

Find out more about the risks of fertility treatment

Sadly, not all eggs will survive the freezing and thawing process or become fertilised. In some cases, none of the eggs will survive.  

How successful is egg freezing?

At the moment it’s very hard to say as the number of women having treatment is so low. Since 2001 only 60 babies have been born from frozen eggs.

A new freezing method called vitrification has been demonstrating higher success rates, although there is no evidence demonstrating the long-term safety and reliability of this freezing method.

Egg freezing is a rapidly changing field. If you do decide to freeze your eggs, make sure you choose a clinic that has plenty of experience and ask to see their most recent success rates for women your age.   

How much control do I have over what happens to my eggs?

You’ll need to complete consent forms before you start treatment specifying how you want your eggs to be used. This includes information on:

  • how long you want the eggs to be stored for (the standard period is 10 years)
  • what should happen to your eggs if you were to die or become unable to make decisions for yourself
  • whether the eggs are to be used for your own treatment only, or whether they can be donated for someone else’s treatment, or used for research or training if you don't want to use them
  • any other conditions you may have for the use of your eggs.

You can vary or withdraw consent at any time, either before treatment or before the eggs are used in research or training. If this happens, your eggs will not be used.

Find out more about giving consent

Scientist using a microscope

Most people can store their eggs for a maximum of 10 years

How long can my eggs be stored for?

The standard storage period for eggs is normally 10 years, although women in certain circumstances can store their eggs for up to 55 years. Your clinician will be able to explain whether you can do this.

You must let the clinic know if you change address. This is particularly important if you have decided to store your eggs for less than 10 years as if the clinic can’t reach you, they may have to take your eggs out of storage and allow them to perish.

 


If you have the option to store for 55 years, you’ll need to confirm that you want to continue storing your eggs and your doctor will need to confirm that you’re eligible to do so. Again, it's vital that you stay in touch with your clinic to prevent your eggs from being discarded if your storage runs out.

What happens when I want to use my eggs?

Eggs that have been frozen and thawed must be fertilised using a fertility treatment called ICSI, as the freezing process makes the outer coating around the eggs tougher and sperm may be unable to penetrate it naturally under IVF. This will be an extra cost on top of the fee for collecting, freezing and storing your eggs unless you have NHS funding.

What if it doesn’t work?

If none of your frozen eggs lead to a successful pregnancy, depending on your age you might want to try conceiving naturally or start IVF treatment. You can have IVF with donor sperm or eggs (or both) depending on your situation. Find out more about IVF.

You might also want to explore other options for having a family, such as adoption.

Find out more about coping if treatment doesn't work.

What if I don’t use my eggs or I have some left over?

If you have frozen eggs you don’t want to use, you have a number of different options.

Donate them to research: Research on eggs, sperm and embryos is invaluable in helping scientists to understand causes of infertility and develop new treatments.

Find out more about donating to research

Donate them to training: Trainee embryologists need eggs to practice different techniques, such as fertilising them with sperm in the lab.

Donate them to someone else: You may be eligible to donate your eggs to someone else who very much wants a family.

Find out more about donating your eggs

Discard them: Some people prefer to discard their eggs. Eggs that are no longer needed are simply removed from the freezer and allowed to perish naturally in warmer temperatures or water.  

How can I find a clinic that offers egg freezing?

You can search for licensed UK clinics on our website here. You'll need to enter your postcode and then update your search criteria to look for clinics offering fertility preservation.

Choose a clinic

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Review date: 26 October 2019

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