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Egg freezing

As you’ve probably heard, the new government act that has been voted on in Greece concerning the ability of women to freeze their eggs not only for medical reasons, but for social ones, is effective immediately. But not only that! Women will now be able to freeze their eggs without the consent of their partner, and if they are divorced they can use their freezing eggs again without partner’s consent. All these three changes are really significant and show that people are beginning to invest in the fertility sector.

So, let’s see some facts about the process, who is eligible to do it, when it is the best time, and other important information.

The first human birth from a frozen oocyte was reported in 1986, and is no longer considered an experimental procedure by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, is the process in which a woman’s eggs (oocytes) are extracted, frozen and stored as a method to preserve reproductive potential in women of reproductive age. A woman’s chances of conceiving naturally fall as she gets older because the quality and number of her eggs drops, so this procedure can be an attempt to preserve fertility by freezing the eggs when the woman is young and the eggs are of the highest quality.

Egg freezing process

infographic with egg freezing process

Firstly, the woman will be tested for any infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis. This has no bearing on whether she can freeze her eggs or not, but is to ensure that affected egg samples are stored separately to prevent contamination of other samples. She’ll then start the IVF process, which usually takes around two to three weeks to complete. Normally this will involve taking drugs to boost egg production and help the eggs mature. When they’re ready, they’ll be collected under general anesthetic or sedation.

At this point, instead of mixing the eggs with sperm (as in conventional IVF) a cryoprotectant (freezing solution) will be added to protect the eggs. The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. Latest statistics show that vitrification is more successful than the slow cooling method.

Most women will have around 15 eggs collected although this isn’t always possible for women with low ovarian reserves (low numbers of eggs). When the woman wants to use them, the eggs will be thawed and those that have survived intact will be injected with her partner’s or donor’s sperm. If the freezing is done in early ages, 8-10 eggs can be enough to be stored, according to the latest research. 

In the future, when the woman is ready to use her eggs, she will undergo IVF. With IVF, a fertility specialist fertilizes the egg in a lab, using sperm from either the woman’s partner or from a donor. If the procedure works, the egg and sperm develop into an embryo that undergoes implantation in the woman’s uterus a few days later. Most fertility clinics try to grow several embryos at once to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Women eligible for egg freezing are those who: 

  • Have a medical condition or need treatment for a medical condition that will affect fertility, such as cancer.
  • Are worried about their fertility declining but are not ready to have a child or haven’t found the right partner – this is often called ‘elective egg freezing’.
  • If they are a female transitioning to a male, they may want to preserve their fertility before they start hormone therapy or have reconstructive surgery. Both treatments can lead to the partial or total loss of fertility.
  • Are at risk of premature ovarian failure because of chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Turner syndrome, fragile X syndrome), or family history of early menopause.
  • Have ovarian disease with risk of damage to the ovaries.

At what age should you freeze your eggs:

Most clinics work with women who are under 40 years old, in order for the egg freezing to be successful. Some clinics place restrictions on women who are 40–49 years of age and few will allow women over the age of 45 years to freeze their eggs. The optimal age range for egg freezing is between ages 30 and 34, according to a 2015 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The study found little added benefit to freezing eggs between ages 25 and 30. 

Egg freezing success rates

Clinical pregnancy rates have been estimated between 4-12% per oocyte. But since egg freezing is relatively new, more data is needed to have a better idea on these success rates. In general, the two most important factors in determining the probability of a live birth are the woman’s age at the time of egg freezing and the number of available eggs.

Risks / side effects:

After egg retrieval, some women may experience cramping, bloating, and spotting. Other unwanted side effects include:

  • weight gain
  • bloating
  • mood swings
  • headaches

The extra hormones are what trigger these effects. In rare cases, egg stimulation can lead to a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (HSS). The effects of HSS can include pain, nausea, and significant weight gain of over 10 pounds (lb) in 3–5 days. Very rarely, HSS might trigger blood clots in the legs and shortness of breath. Long-term complications include a higher risk of ovarian cancer, according to this 2015 study.

How long are the eggs being stored:

In accordance with the Greek legislation, egg freezing is permitted for 5 years. The duration of oocyte cryopreservation may be extended for 5 years each time (provided that the woman has not reached the age of 50) following an application in writing by the interested parties, with a maximum extension limit of 20 years.

What happens if egg freezing doesn’t work out?

If none of the frozen eggs lead to a successful pregnancy, depending on the woman’s age she might want to try conceiving naturally or start IVF treatment. You can have IVF with donor sperm or eggs (or both) depending on the situation.

Egg freezing cost

Greece takes pride in being one of the most affordable countries concerning fertility treatments, while at the same time it offers top-notch clinics and doctors. Egg freezing starts from 2 ,500 euros per cycle according to the clinic. 

Are you thinking about storing your eggs and giving your fertility a chance in the future? Choose Greece for your fertility destination, and MEDIPASS to support you along the way. In that way, you can make the process smoother, safer and 100% personalized. Our network of fertility doctors and fertility clinics will help you achieve your goals.

DM/email us or book a free call with our customer success manager, Effie, to guide you through the process. If you are 100% sure that you want to freeze your eggs you can request quote (in the header above), select your treatment and start your fertility journey with us!

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Egg freezing