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Everything you need to know before freezing your eggs

Even though egg freezing has grown in popularity over the last decade, to many the process remains intense and overwhelming

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Although the technology for freezing an embryo – also known as oocyte cryopreservation – was developed in the 1980s to help women suffering with serious medical conditions improve their chances of having a baby post-treatment, the idea of egg preservation in healthy women has emerged recently.

In the US, the number of people who have frozen their eggs rose by more than 400 per cent, to over 13,000 in 2020 from just over 2,500 in 2012, according to data from the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology.

Similarly, in the UK there were 11 times more egg freeze cycles in 2021 than in 2011, with the number of embryo freeze cycles increasing from around 230 cycles in 2011 to 10,719 in 2021.

But even as egg freezing has grown more popular over the last decade, the process can seem intense and overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know.

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing is a way of preserving a woman’s fertility so she can try to 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.

A woman’s chances of conceiving naturally fall as she gets older because the quality and number of her eggs drops.

According to HFEA, egg freezing can be an attempt to preserve fertility by freezing the eggs when the woman is young and the eggs are of the highest quality.

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 freezing solution will be added to protect the eggs.

The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification, a practice of freezing an egg or embryo with extremely rapid cooling. They will then be stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen.

In the UK, there were 11 times more egg freeze cycles in 2021 than in 2011

Most patients under 38 years of age will have on around 7-14 eggs collected, although this isn’t always possible for patients with low ovarian reserves.

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 safe is egg freezing?

The UK’s Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority says 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).

How much does egg freezing cost?

The average cost of having your eggs collected and frozen in the UK is £3,350, with medication being an added £500-£1,500. Storage costs are extra and tend to be between £125 and £350 per year.

Thawing eggs and transferring them to the womb costs an average of £2,500. So, the whole process for egg freezing and thawing costs an average of £7,000-£8,000.

What are the benefits of egg freezing?

The clearest benefit is that it allows women to “freeze” the biological age of their eggs, increasing the chances of successful pregnancy if they use those eggs at a later time, says Professor Assaf Ben-Meir, head of IVF at Hadassah Medical Center and chief medical officer at Fairtility.

“This is especially advantageous when done at a younger age, as it typically yields more eggs per retrieval with higher quality which is the main benefit, enhancing the chances of a successful live birth.

“While women may not ultimately need these eggs, the procedure provides peace of mind.”

What are the downsides of egg freezing?

While freezing eggs does “freeze time” in terms of the biological age of the eggs, Ben-Meir says some women don’t take into account that their bodies do keep aging.

“Women will freeze eggs but then might put off family planning for longer. If a person waits until their early 40s, they might find that they cannot get pregnant with their fresh eggs. In this situation, they will count on their frozen eggs – and there is no 100 per cent guarantee for success.”

Women are becoming more proactive about their fertility, say experts

The potential of frozen eggs can vary significantly too, Ben-Meir says, adding that current methods of assessing egg quality are not highly reliable.

“Embryologists make estimations solely based on some morphological characteristics of each oocyte. Most studies show that the predictability of an egg’s potential to result in a live birth based on these parameters alone are low and non-personalised.

“This means that when a patient ultimately wants to use frozen eggs to start a family, she may find that what she initially froze is not enough for her personal plans.”

What does the rise in egg freezing suggest?

Overall, it means that women are becoming aware of and proactive about their fertility earlier in their lives, says Dr Luca Sabatini, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician and chief medical officer at Apricity.

“They know other women who have been tested and chosen to freeze their eggs, and as a result social egg freezing is becoming more acceptable and routine.”

However, Professor Ben-Meir says if this trend continues, the industry must consider the future implications of storing thousands of unused eggs.

“Healthcare providers will need to make decisions about the management and potential donation of thousands of unused, but viable eggs in the coming years,” he warns.

Have celebrities and social media influencers led to more women freezing their eggs?

While there is no clear data on this, experts believe celebrities and internet personalities have been somewhat responsible for egg freezing’s growing popularity.

“Celebrities and social media figures have likely helped reduce the stigma around fertility care, and encouraged people to be proactive about fertility preservation and care,” says Sabatini.

“Their stories might have brought awareness to the option of egg freezing, which some people may not have considered or even known about previously.”

 

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A post shared by Paris Hilton (@parishilton)

Paris Hilton has frozen 20 embryos, revealing that she is “waiting” for a daughter 

Ben-Meir says an unintended consequence of these stories may be additional pressure for women in their reproductive years.

However, he thinks greater awareness means that women are talking about this earlier and they are better assessing their options.

What should women consider before freezing their eggs?

Dr Lisa Stradiotto, consultant in obstetrics and reproductive medicine at Apricity, says one of the biggest factors women need to consider is the financial cost of freezing and storage. For some women multiple cycles may be required to achieve a enough eggs to give them a good chance of pregnancy later.

“The literature suggests that it would be ideal to freeze around 15-20 eggs to give an 80 per cent chance of successfully yielding a pregnancy.”

However, egg freezing is not a guarantee of future fertility like it is sometimes portrayed, cautions Stradiotto.

“It should rather be viewed as a potential ‘back-up plan’, as life doesn’t always go according to plan.”

Professor Ben-Meir encourages women to consider the reputation of the clinic they are choosing.

“Research and choose a reputable facility for egg freezing. Ask if the facility is using AI in its egg and embryo assessment processes, as these technologies are making egg freezing and IVF processes more accurate and personalised to each patient.”

Fertility

Maven Clinic launches programme for couples struggling to conceive

The programme aims to address the gap between trying to conceive and fertility treatment

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The US virtual clinic Maven has launched a health coaching programme in an effort to expand family-building options for couples struggling to conceive.

With 86 per cent of women not receiving preconception care from their family physician or OB/GYN, Maven’s Trying-To-Conceive (TTC) health coaching programme aims to support people who may be struggling and want to get pregnant without IVF.

The programme includes one-to-one support, reproductive education, ovulation tracking kits, as well as referrals to resources for mental health and nutrition.

“Maven is making sure every family can access the shortest pathway to having a healthy baby,” said Kate Ryder, Maven Clinic founder and CEO.

“We have constructed a unique model that, for the first time, aligns incentives among the stakeholders in healthcare to support people who are trying to conceive.”

To address the gap between trying to conceive and fertility treatment, Maven’s TTC Coaching service brings the benefits of health coaching to fertility care, providing members with “personalised” support and reproductive education, Ryder said. 

Dr Neel Shah, Maven Clinic’s chief medical officer, added: “While most sex education is spent teaching people how to avoid pregnancy, very little time is invested in empowering them with the guidance needed to become pregnant when they’re ready.

“Our coaching program supports couples to understand why they are struggling to conceive and in many cases helps them get pregnant without needing IVF.”

Further product enhancements the Maven team has announced include the Maven Managed Benefit platform, as well as an expansion of the company’s reproductive urology provider network for male fertility support.

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Fertility

Brazilian fertility network FertGroup partners with Future Fertility to launch innovative oocyte assessment software across all clinics

The collaboration marks a significant milestone in advancing fertility care in Brazil

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FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva, a dynamic network of fertility clinics in Brazil, is proud to announce its partnership with Future Fertility to introduce cutting-edge oocyte assessment software, VIOLET™ and MAGENTA™, across its expanding network of clinics.

With nine clinics currently under FertGroup ownership, the network is poised for significant growth, aiming to surpass 15 clinics within the coming year.

This expansion is a response to the escalating demand for fertility services in Brazil, a market that has seen remarkable growth (17.6 per cent CAGR compared to the global average of ~10 per cent).

Factors driving this growth include an underserved market, rising medical tourism, and evolving population dynamics emphasising the need for advanced fertility solutions.

Led by private equity investors XP Private Equity fund, FertGroup is committed to revolutionising the fertility care landscape in Brazil and beyond.

Future Fertility is the first and only AI company to offer a comprehensive and easily integratable solution to oocyte assessment for clinics around the world.

With the world’s largest oocyte dataset, the use of this software (VIOLET™ and MAGENTA™) is at the forefront of this partnership, enabling clinicians, embryologists and patients to gain broad access to AI-driven insights about oocyte quality.

Nelson Guerreiro Pestana, CEO of FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva, highlighted the importance of integrating such innovative technologies: “At FertGroup, we are committed to bringing forward medical innovation that directly benefits the lives of Brazilians.

“Partnering with Future Fertility reinforces our market-leading position and reputation for excellence in fertility care.”

This technology optimises decisions regarding oocyte cryopreservation, ICSI IVF treatment approaches and oocyte donation. It also empowers patients by offering valuable insights into how their health status impacts expected fertility outcomes, helping clinics differentiate their service offering and provide a more patient-centric approach to fertility care.

Christy Prada, CEO of Future Fertility, expressed excitement about the expansion into the Brazilian market: “We are thrilled to partner with FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva in introducing Future Fertility’s innovative oocyte assessment software to Brazil.

“FertGroup is leading the market as the first network in Brazil to implement this technology, marking a significant step forward for fertility care in the region.”

Dr Edson Borges Jr, chief medical officer of FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva, emphasised the significance of oocyte quality in care delivery: “As a scientific leader in the field, we believe in bringing cutting edge technology to our patients, and supporting further research into new approaches to measuring and assessing progress in fertility treatment.

“Oocyte quality is a critical aspect of fertility care, and we believe that by integrating Future Fertility’s advanced tools into our care models we will advance the science in this space and demonstrate the value of leveraging oocyte quality in decision making.”

“Integrating the Future Fertility technology into our labs has been completely seamless” remarked Maria Cecilia Cardoso, group lab director.

“We already can see the value of the workflow integration, and this was a major decision factor for us. We are excited to see the benefits this will bring to decision making, providing an objective and personalised view of quality control into the process.”

This collaboration between FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva and Future Fertility marks a significant milestone in advancing fertility care in Brazil.

The introduction of VIOLET™ and MAGENTA™ software underscores FertGroup’s dedication to innovation and patient-centric care, solidifying its position as a pioneer in the Brazilian fertility market.

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Don’t politicise fertility, leaders warn after MP’s ‘patronising’ intervention

It is worrying to see a “deeply personal” women’s health issue being debated by politicians, fertility benefits providers told Femtech World

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UK femtech leaders have warned of the dangers of playing politics with fertility services following what they call “unhelpful, patronising and disrespectful” comments from an MP. 

The Conservative MP Miriam Cates raised concerns this week that women are being exploited into freezing their eggs, claiming that “most hopeful mothers are sold a lie”.

She said she fears women are being given “false promises” by large corporations offering them money to freeze their eggs to put off having children to a later age.

However, reproductive benefits providers labelled the comments as “unhelpful, patronising and disrespectful”.

Eileen Burbidge MBE, executive director at reproductive health start-up Fertifa, said: “Policymakers should absolutely be giving more attention to protecting reproductive health access and treatment options for women, given how shamefully ignored women’s health has been for too long.

“However, characterising egg freezing in the way that Miriam Cates has recently done is unhelpful, patronising and disrespectful to women who rely upon the option to freeze their eggs whether for medical reasons, to donate to others who suffer from infertility or for their own future optionality to relieve patriarchal societal pressures of finding a life partner or starting a family.”

Far from being exploitative, employers who offer financial and wellbeing access to reproductive healthcare are responding to what their talent is asking for, Burbidge, who served on former British prime minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group, told Femtech World.

“Data has consistently shown that women do not choose to freeze their eggs in order to work longer or prioritise their careers, but rather because they’ve yet to find a life partner and wish to not succumb to patriarchal societal pressures to do so.

“The fact that companies are supporting this will hopefully mean more women recognise the fact that the likelihood of success increases the earlier they freeze their eggs.”

Leila Thabet, UK general manager at Maven Clinic, said it is concerning to see a highly emotionally charged women’s health issue being debated by politicians and commentators with their own agendas.

“It is correct that egg freezing will not work for all women, but rather than paint an entirely bleak picture of the practice, it is vital that we empower women with facts around the procedure so they do not fall prey to exploitative clinics and operators who may not have their best interests at heart,” she said.

“At a time when data shows that women’s health care needs are still largely being neglected, it is unhelpful to dismiss the provision of women’s and family health benefits in the workplace as exploitative. This is as unhelpful as it is untrue.”

Jenny Saft, co-founder and CEO of fertility benefits provider Apryl, said there is a misconception that fertility benefits platforms offer egg freezing to keep women in the workplace.

“This is not how these programmes are designed or implemented. From my experience, it’s rare to find a company that limits its fertility benefits to egg freezing alone,” she explained.

“Typically, employers provide a comprehensive suite of fertility and family-forming options, including but not limited to egg freezing, sperm freezing, IVF, adoption, and surrogacy.”

Egg freezing has seen a sharp rise in the UK. More women than ever before are undergoing procedures, with egg and embryo freezing now the fastest growing fertility treatments in the country.

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA), egg freezing and storage saw a 64 per cent increase in 2021 compared to 2019.

The procedure, which is not available on the NHS, is largely carried out by private clinics at a price tag of £7,000 to £8,000. Fertility benefits platforms claim to provide financial and emotional support for egg freezing, giving women more freedom over when to start a family.

“When egg freezing is offered as an employee benefit it takes away the financial burden of egg freezing,” said Dr Catherine Hill, head of policy and public affairs at Fertility Network UK.

“However, it does not remove the health risks and side effects associated with the invasive medical process, or the emotionally demanding and often upsetting nature of freezing your eggs – all of which women need to consider before making any decision.

“Because this is such a big life choice, it is vital women do not feel under any obligation from their employer to take advantage of this employee benefit.”

Although the procedure enables some women to delay motherhood until the time that is right for them, egg freezing should never be seen as a fertility insurance policy, Hill said.

She added: “Making a decision on the right time to approach parenthood or to attempt to postpone it is a very individual commitment and must be made without pressure from anyone else, including employers. Egg freezing should be about widening women’s reproductive choices on when to have a baby, not enabling a scenario where women feel forced to delay motherhood.”

Becky Kearns, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, said it is crucial that companies educate employees and empower them to make informed choices.

“While egg freezing will be seen as a huge benefit and attraction for the next generation of workforce, it needs to be balanced with information and facts to allow people to make informed choices,” she told Femtech World.

“Organisations should be supporting fertility treatment as a whole where possible, not just for those early in their careers. If the focus is solely on egg freezing there’s the risk that this may be perceived as a means to encourage employees to delay having a family, to the short-term benefit of the employer.

“This benefit on its own, without balanced information and education about outcomes and overall fertility awareness, may result in people purposely delaying having children, thinking they have a guarantee for when the time is right, when in reality it gives them a chance.

Miriam Cates has been approached for comment.

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