Egg Freezing Australia: What Is the Best Age for Egg Freezing?
Egg vitrification is one of the most widely used methods to help women maintain fertility. This method involves surgically removing unfertilized eggs, then freezing them, and moving on to artificial insemination when a decision is made. In this way, the woman ensures that her eggs are frozen and can maintain her fertility overtime to choose the most appropriate moment to live like a mother.
You are the one who will decide if you are ready to become a mother. This article will enlighten you on egg freezing, the egg freezing process, the best age for freezing an egg, and the cost of the egg freezing process.
What is the process of egg freezing?
Egg freezing, also called cryopreservation, is the technique of preserving eggs in liquid nitrogen through vitrification. In this sense, egg freezing is a treatment to delay the possibility of having children.
This procedure first took place in 1986, and since then, the method has progressed significantly. It is noteworthy that, in the early years, the pregnancy rate from a frozen egg was very low (about 1%). This was because the technique used for freezing created ice crystals that damaged the cell’s structure.
However, with the introduction of the vitrification technique in 2006, the egg quality and survival rate, after thawing, increased to 95%. Thus, according to data from the National Embryo Production System (SisEmbrio), the demand for egg freezing to postpone maternity has tripled in recent years. Below are some steps that are involved in the egg freezing procedure.
The ovarian stimulation aims to produce a more significant number of mature oocytes to be frozen. Thus, the technique occurs through the use of drugs, gonadotropins, which promote the maturation of eggs.
This technique has the function of preventing ovulation from happening before the time of collection of the eggs and ensuring greater precision in the monitoring of follicular development.
Egg aspiration and retrieval
In this phase, a needle couples from aspirating the follicles to a transvaginal ultrasound transducer. The collected fluid is forwarded to embryologists to separate the eggs from the aspirated content. Thus, the procedure requires intravenous sedation, that is, via injection.
The vitrification technique is used for the freezing of eggs, characterized by the speed at which it reaches low temperatures. Thus, the temperature decrease in vitrification is –23ºC per minute, which is 70 times faster than the slow freezing process.
In this way, the frozen eggs are stored in a liquid nitrogen cylinder and kept at -196°. They, in turn, are in a glassy state, preventing the formation of ice crystals, which damage the reproductive cells.
Preparation of the endometrium
Preparing the uterus to receive the embryos can be considered a simple process. The procedure can occur within a spontaneous ovulatory cycle if the woman has regular cycles, accompanied by ultrasound and hormonal dosages. In this way, the eggs are thawed fertilized, and progesterone is introduced at ovulation.
Thawing and in vitro fertilization
The eggs are removed from the liquid nitrogen and heated in the defrosting process. Soon after, they go to the fertilization process. Finally, the embryos will have their growth monitored until the fifth day. Then, when they are properly developed, they are transferred to the uterus in the blastocyst stage.
With the best quality embryos separated and the endometrium adequately prepared, the woman can schedule embryo transfer. The process is painless and involves introducing the embryos into the uterus through a probe (catheter) guided by abdominal ultrasound. Usually, the procedure is done without anesthesia. So, after ten days, a beta HCG test should be done to confirm the pregnancy. If positive, estradiol and progesterone replacement is maintained until completing 12 weeks of gestation. From that moment on, the placenta will be able to produce these hormones in the correct amounts.
Some of the most common risks that are involved with egg freezing include:
- Ovary swelling up caused by ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
- PMS-like symptoms
A woman involved in the egg retrieval process can resume normal activities within a week unless complications occur. You should contact your doctor if you start experiencing the following symptoms:
1. High fever
2. Abdominal pain
3. Weight gain in less than 24 hours
4. Having difficulties when urinating
5. Vaginal bleeding
Common reasons why women choose egg freezing
Several factors make women undergo egg freezing. Below are some biological reasons.
Women who intend to get pregnant after 35 years of age
In the not-too-distant past, the beginning of motherhood was generally at the age of 20 years. Today, as we have already seen, the average age of the first child is over 35 years old.
However, it is important to clarify that women are born with a predetermined number of eggs, and their bodies cannot produce more. Thus, with advancing age, the quantity and quality available to be fertilized also decrease.
For this reason, for those women who intend to postpone motherhood, egg freezing is recommended. However, according to the Federal Council of Medicine, the maximum age to undergo assisted reproduction treatment is 50 years. This limit was chosen because of the obstetric risk, since after the age of 50, cases of hypertension in pregnancy, diabetes, and premature births increase.
Women with a family history of early menopause
Early menopause is a clinical condition in which a woman stops ovulating and menstruating before the age of 32. This is considered abnormal as the natural period for ovarian failure is after age 40 years. It is known that early menopause can originate from various factors, such as genetics.
Thus, women must know how to identify the history of the mother and grandmothers when they entered menopause, as there is a tendency for the scenario to repeat itself.
However, regardless of the factors, it is important to emphasize that women with early menopause can preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs in a preventive way. When they decide to have children, they can use the frozen eggs, if necessary.
Women who will undergo cancer treatments
Women who need to undergo aggressive treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and who want to have children after recovery can freeze the eggs before starting cancer treatment.
In these cases, it is essential first to assess the level of aggravation of the disease. Suppose the cancer is at an advanced stage, and it is not possible to wait for ovulation induction. In that case, there is the possibility of removing and freezing only ovarian tissue fragments. Thus, when the woman finishes the treatment, these fragments can be implanted again to try fertilization.
What is the best age for egg freezing?
It is known that women between 20 and 30 years of age are biologically at the peak of their fertility. Therefore, the idea is to freeze eggs during this period. However, many women leave the egg collection procedure until they are the age of 38, 39, or even 40 years. However, the chances of success are greatly reduced. This is because aging significantly reduces the quantity and quality of eggs produced, directly interfering with the possibilities of pregnancy. There are no age restrictions for freezing your eggs in Australia, but it is recommended to have at least 12 eggs before the age of 36 to give you a more than 50% chance of live birth when you come back to use your eggs.
How much does it cost to freeze eggs?
The cost in Australia changes depending on the state you live in and the fertility clinic you choose. Typically you can expect to pay between $8000 – $11,000. This fee covers the IVF consultation, hospital day surgery fee, doctor’s fee for retrieval and the cost of the medication and scans needed for your IVF and egg retrieval cost.
Does insurance cover freezing eggs?
Many fertility treatments attract a rebate from Medicare or are subsidized by your private health. To be able to claim for IVF and egg freezing under the medicare scheme, you will require a referral from your GP or obstetrician.
Egg freezing has enabled women to decide on when to give birth. It has enabled women to be mothers even in situations where it is challenging to have a child. Women who undergo egg freezing do not undergo any serious problems.