Fertility preservation

Egg freezing

Who needs egg freezing?

Egg freezing is available to women whose capacity to produce eggs is becoming limited, other than from the natural ageing process. Some treatments for cancer and other serious conditions may affect the store of eggs in the ovaries or the function of the ovaries themselves. Egg freezing before such treatment takes place may make it possible for women to have children using their own eggs*.

Women who suffer from any condition that may lead to premature ovarian failure, and as a result infertility, may also consider egg freezing.

Finally, egg freezing may be used as an emergency procedure for couples undergoing IVF, if the male partner is unable to provide sperm at the time of treatment.

What does egg freezing involve?

In order to collect enough eggs to freeze, women must undergo drug treatment to stimulate their ovaries, in the same way as women undergoing IVF treatment. This takes two to five weeks.

The eggs are then collected under general anaesthetic. Only eggs that are mature and ready to be fertilised, can be frozen.

When the eggs are required for treatment, they are thawed and fertilised using ICSI in order to give the maximum chance of fertilisation. However, you must bear in mind that freezing eggs does not guarantee future successful fertility treatment.

How long can eggs be stored?

You may legally store your eggs for ten years, but under certain circumstances this can be extended to 55 years.

*It is necessary to stimulate the ovaries so that enough eggs develop for freezing. In some cases there is a risk that the drugs involved will make the cancer worse, in which case egg freezing would not be possible.

Funding

In some areas funding is available for fertility preservation. Your GP or oncologist should be able to discuss this with you. However, you need to be aware that even if funding is available for egg freezing, there is no guarantee that funding will be available for treatment using those frozen eggs.

Sperm freezing

Who needs sperm freezing?

Men who are having treatment that might impact on their future fertility, for example chemotherapy or radiotherapy, urological surgery or undergoing a vasectomy.

Men with low sperm counts whose partners are going to have ICSI treatment may be advised to freeze sperm in case they are unable to produce sufficient sperm on the day of egg collection.

How long can sperm be stored?

Sperm are initially stored for ten years, but storage may be extended to 55 years in certain circumstances.

How do I use my sperm in the future?

Frozen sperm is usually used in conjunction with IVF or ICSI, depending on the quality and post thaw survival.