Frequently asked questions

Here you will find all the answers about Egg Freezing.

General Information

The process of cryopreservation of egg cells has been around for many years. However, it was originally used by cancer patients. The aim is to freeze eggs before chemotherapy in order to be able to fulfill one’s desire to have children after successful treatment of the cancer (the so-called “Medical Freezing”). Since 2012, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has classified the freezing and storage of unfertilized egg cells as a non-experimental treatment in the United States. In addition to a major discussion, this led to the method becoming more widespread, including in Germany. Since then, the demand for Egg Freezing – even without medical necessity – has increased significantly. The term “Social Freezing” is therefore often used to distinguish between medically necessary treatments.

There are many different reasons why women choose to freeze their egg cells. Most commonly stated is “fear” of infertility in the future, however, the decision is often multifaceted. Other frequently mentioned reasons are to save time, minimize the pressure to find a partner, and to focus on career.

As a woman ages, the number and quality of the egg cells decreases, meanwhile, the uterus remains functional and can carry a pregnancy regardless of the woman’s age. Therefore, the pregnancy success rate increases if one uses younger (cryopreserved) egg cells for fertilization than would have been expected with older egg cells.

From a purely mathematical point of view, the best age would be in your early 20’s. The younger the egg cells are, the better the quality and accordingly, the higher the probability that you will achieve a successful pregnancy with the frozen egg cells. With every year you wait, the quality of the egg cells decreases and thus, the probability of a successful pregnancy. But most women only realize later how their life plans develop. In addition, if you plan to become pregnant before 30, you do not need to undergo unnecessary treatment. The optimal period is therefore between the late 20s and early 30s, but definitely before 35 years of age, as the number and quality of egg cells afterwards drop significantly. Of course, it is also possible to freeze your egg cells after 35 years. The challenge is that there are usually fewer egg cells available, but at the same time more egg cells are required in order to achieve a sufficient probability of becoming pregnant.

As already explained in the previous answer, the older you get, the more difficult it is to obtain sufficiently good egg cells. From a medical point of view, our task is to provide honest and meaningful advice to women. For example, if you are 40 years old and would like to have two children, then Social Freezing is probably not the best option and you should consider getting pregnant straight away. But even in this case, it makes perfect sense to speak to a fertility doctor and have your options explained to you.

In order to answer this question, one must address the complex topic of “artificial insemination”. There are many hurdles that an egg cell must overcome in order to become a healthy baby, and in artificial insemination there is usually significant loss at many points in the process. To date, there is no way to test the quality of the egg cells in advance. If they are to be used, the egg cells must survive thawing, be successfully fertilised with sperm, and cultivated into embryos in the laboratory over a period of several days. These embryos must develop well and be genetically normal if they are to have any chance of a viable pregnancy. In the end, these embryos must be placed back in the uterus, successfully implanted, a healthy pregnancy must be continued and finally lead to a live birth. Knowing the number of steps will also help you understand how quickly egg cells can be lost in this process. It is therefore important to preserve and freeze as many egg cells as possible. Usually, most patients go through more than one cycle in order to get enough egg cells and be comfortable with the result.

Yes, but no less than what you would have had after a normal cycle without stimulation. During each cycle, the body “prepares” several follicles, but ensures that in the end only one follicle matures, which contains the egg cell that can be fertilized. The remaining “prepared” follicles atrophy. If hormonal stimulation is applied, all the “prepared” follicles, which contain fertilizable egg cells, will mature. In this way, it is possible to obtain several egg cells in one cycle, which can be frozen without losing more egg cells than would naturally happen anyway.

The success rate is currently difficult to quantify. The success rate increases the younger the frozen egg cell is when it is retrieved. Current studies show that for example, a woman who freezes 20 egg cells at ≤ 35 years of age has an approx. 90% probability of having a healthy child. In contrast, a woman who freezes 20 egg cells at the age of 38 has only a 70% chance of having a healthy child. Here you can find a link to a calculator that shows you the probability of having a healthy child depending on your age and the number of egg cells frozen.

In principle, it can be said that artificial insemination is associated with a slightly higher rate of malformations compared to naturally occurring pregnancies. There are studies that describe a malformation rate in frozen egg cells of 1.5-2%, but this is comparable to a pregnancy after artificial insemination with fresh egg cells.

There are no legal requirements regarding the age up to which the frozen egg cells may be used. However, reproductive medicine specialists have agreed on an upper age limit of approx. 45-50 years. Although the age of the egg cells plays a significant role in a successful pregnancy, various pregnancy risks also increase with the age of the woman.

During the treatment

The hormones come either in the form of a syringe or a “hormone pen” (a kind of ballpoint pen with a needle in the front), which is injected directly into the fat layer of the abdomen or thigh. The fertility center will explain in detail how to use the syringes. It takes some effort in the beginning, but it hardly hurts. If necessary, you can also make an appointment at the fertility center and have the syringes set there. You can find useful instructions here.

Here every woman reacts differently. Some women feel no change at all, some complain about mood swings, hot flashes, feelings of tension in the abdomen, headaches or fatigue. A slight weight gain may also occur, but goes back relatively quickly after the treatment. Most patients describe at least the feeling of swollen or “full” ovaries.

A healthy lifestyle is generally recommended during the treatment. This means no alcohol or nicotine if possible, but a healthy and balanced diet. Even extreme sports are not recommended to avoid the strain on the ovaries. You can have sexual intercourse as long as it feels comfortable for you. Otherwise there are almost no restrictions. After the procedure, you usually need a day of rest and should also rest for a few days afterwards. Due to the procedure, you will still feel a slight pulling in your lower abdomen for a few days after the procedure, so sexual intercourse should be avoided in the beginning. Your body will tell you the best what it can and cannot do.

The so-called follicle puncture (egg collection) is usually carried out under a brief general anaesthesia, which means that you do not notice anything and have no pain. Under ultrasound control, a long needle is inserted through the vagina and the ovaries are punctured. The egg cells are then carefully extracted from the follicles and collected. Immediately after collection, the egg cells are prepared for storage and frozen. The procedure takes about 15-20 minutes.

Financial issues

Since this is a non-medically necessary treatment (Social Freezing), health insurance companies do not cover the costs of the treatment. Until recently, this also applied to Medical Freezing. Fortunately, on March 14, 2019, a new draft law was passed by the Bundestag, which recognizes treatment for medical reasons as a benefit entitlement for patients.

OVIAVO fully advises patients and also supports them in finding suitable financing options. Just talk to us about it.

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