It is well known that fertility ( especially in women) falls rapidly with increasing age, Women achieve a peak of fertility before the age of 25 and this fertility rate (fecundity) halves between the age of 25 and 35 and is halved again between the ages of 35 and 45.
In the past most women started their families well within the age of maximum fertility, however over the last few decades the average age of women/ couples either wanting or being in a position to start a family has risen dramatically. It is partly for this reason that there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of women seeking both advice and treatment for fertility.
Whilst modern assisted conception techniques have managed to overcome some of the effects of delaying a family there is still a significant reduction in the chances of successfully achieving a family as well as increasing risks to children with advancing female age even with IVF treatment.
Fertility preservation/ egg freezing is a technique that has been developed that allows women to freeze eggs at a younger age which can then subsequently be used in assisted conception treatment whilst maintaining the same chances of success as at the age when the eggs were frozen.
Eggs are the largest single cell in the human body and until recently, freezing and thawing them without damage was a scientific challenge. Now, with the birth of hundreds of healthy ‘frozen egg babies’ around the world, new techniques to successfully freeze and thaw eggs give the chance of genetic motherhood to some women that previously were not available.
However, egg freezing offers no guarantees of successful future conception and pregnancy and it is always preferable for women not to delay conceiving if possible.
Egg freezing has been used for over 10 years and in the past few years enough babies have been born successfully and safely worldwide for many fertility organisations to change from an initial position of caution to now recommending its widespread availability for healthy women who by necessity wish to delay motherhood.
Egg freezing was originally developed as a technique of freezing the eggs from young women diagnosed with cancer for whom treatment was likely to leave them infertile, its use is suggested for the following patients/ women
- Young women undergoing treatment for cancer or another medical condition that is likely to make them infertile.
- Women at risk of a premature menopause.
- Women who are not in a position to undertake pregnancy due to social reasons “social egg freezing” and who wish to store eggs for the future as an “insurance “policy