A woman’s chance of conceiving naturally declines with age. By her mid thirties a women’s egg quality has begun to deteriorate and her egg count will have decreased to the point where it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve and maintain a pregnancy. The decline increases and by her early forties the vast majority of women are unable to conceive with their own eggs.
Egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation, is a procedure in which a women’s eggs are removed, quickly frozen using a technique called vitrification, and then stored for use in the future. The preservation procedure is typically used by women who want to delay pregnancy for later in their life or preserve good quality eggs before any medical intervention that might affect their quality. A medical intervention might include the use of radiation or chemotherapy treatments. Freezing may also be considered by women who have a familial history of primary ovarian insufficiency or early menopause which shortens the period in which conception is more likely.
The use of cryopreservation for fertility preservation began tentatively in the 1960’s and 70’s. The first successful pregnancy using a frozen egg was in 1986. Since that time the technology to assist cryopreservation has developed rapidly along with an awareness of the possibility that such preservation offers. Today, women all over the world benefit from freezing their eggs and having a greater say in when they will be used to aid conception.
Egg freezing abroad: Considerations
There are a number of considerations that women must address before committing to freezing their eggs. Firstly, there is the cost. Any private sector medical procedure comes at a cost and egg freezing is no exception. As a patient you might pay as little as a couple of hundred euros, pounds or dollars or as much as a couple of thousand just for the collection of eggs alone. Add to this the cost of storage and it is easy to see how the procedure might be out of the reach of many.
There is also an investment which you need to make in terms of time when you freeze your eggs. You will need hormone injections for 9 to 12 days and possibly visit the clinic a number of times for blood tests and scans to ensure the fertility drugs are working properly. If the drugs do not work as effectively as they should the clinic may have to make adjustments to the drug regime. When appropriate the harvesting procedure will be under anaesthesia.
Remember the process of freezing your eggs when they of a good quality does not guarantee that their use in the future will result in a pregnancy. When they are used in the future any IVF procedure will be subject to any variable it would if the procedure was undertaken with fresh eggs. Before any future transfer takes place frozen eggs will also have to survive the thawing process which represents another potential problem.
Finally, if you are considering freezing your eggs in a country in which you are not resident you will have to factor in the time and cost of harvesting and returning for a transfer in the future.
Egg freezing is one of the most in demand services that many clinics offer and more and providers are promoting packages aimed at women looking to preserve their fertility. We have put together a guide which provides some useful information about cost and the logistics of freezing you eggs in a number of destinations around the world.
Egg freezing: The process
The patient has to undertake a course of hormone medication to be able to produce multiple eggs. Eggs are harvested from the ovary using ultrasound guided needles. When the eggs are extracted any water is removed from the eggs – this is done in order to ensure that no ice crystals can form and damage the eggs when they are frozen. Clinics freeze the eggs in two ways – some use a slow freezing technique while others use a flash freezing technique called vitrification. Once frozen, the eggs are stored in a liquid nitrogen tank. When thawed, the eggs are injected using a needle containing a single sperm in a procedure known as Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The fertilised embryos are then transferred into the uterus using a catheter.
The egg freezing process is regarded as being very safe although some women might experience some negative side effects from taking fertility related drugs. Invariably these side effects are mild with very few women experiencing severe side effects such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a potentially fatal condition. The advice with any invasive procedure related to If is to familiarise yourself with the symptoms.
Egg freezing abroad: Why do it?
Women travel to freeze their eggs for many reasons. It may be that the country and clinic in which they visit provides a cheaper service, they may wish to freeze their eggs in a country which offers a longer storage period or they simply wish to freeze their eggs in the clinic in which they plan to have treatment.
Egg freezing abroad – where to go
Egg freezing in Spain
Egg freezing in Spain costs an average of €2,300 not including any medication plus an average €500 per year to store resulting embryos. There is no time limit on storage.
Egg freezing in Portugal
Clinics in Portugal charge an average of €1,500 for freezing eggs excluding medication and around €500 per year for storage. Eggs can be stored for up to ten years.
Egg freezing in the Czech Republic
Egg freezing costs around €700 in the Czech Republic and yearly storage costs can be as low as €200 per year. Clinics can store eggs up to 12 years.
Egg freezing in North Cyprus
Egg freezing costs around €2,500 in North Cyprus and there is no maximum period in which eggs can be stored.
Egg freezing in Greece
Egg freezing can cost anywhere between €1,500 and €2,500 in Greece and eggs can be stored for a maximum period of ten years.
Egg freezing in Latvia
Egg freezing in Latvia costs around €2,500 which includes the first year of storage costs. Storage costs thereafter can cost €700 per year and eggs can be stored for up to ten years.
Egg freezing in Poland
Egg freezing in Poland averages around €200 with a similar yearly storage cost. Clinics recommend a maximum ten year storage period but this can be extended.
Egg freezing in Ukraine
Initial egg freezing costs start at €750 with an ongoing storage cost of €500 per year. Eggs can be stored for up to ten years.
Egg freezing in Russia
Egg freezing costs start at €500 whilst ongoing storage costs average €250 per year. Eggs can be frozen indefinitely.
Egg freezing in Denmark
Clinics in Denmark offer egg freezing packages which include the storage of eggs for a specific period. Average prices cost £1,000 for three years. Eggs can be stored for a maximum period of five years.
Egg freezing in the UK
Egg freezing costs start around £3,000 plus medication costs with storage costs costing anywhere between £125 and £350 per year. Eggs can be stored for a period of up to 55 years.
Egg freezing in Mexico
Eggs can be stored indefinitely in Mexico. The average cost to harvest eggs is approximately $2,000 and ongoing storage costs $20 per month.
Egg freezing in the USA
Freezing costs start at $10,000 with storage costs from $500. Storage deadlines can differ between clinics and states.
Egg freezing in India
Eggs can be frozen for the equivalent cost of £500 and thereafter a storage cost of up to £300 per year. It is recommended that eggs should be stored for a maximum of ten years but this can be extended by the clinic.
Egg freezing abroad: In summary
Since the first pregnancy was achieved using a frozen egg in 1986 many thousands of women have chosen to preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs. Sometimes this is done for purely ‘social’ reasons, such as wanting to delay a pregnancy due to careers reasons or because the women has yet to find a partner. In other cases, women choose to preserve their eggs prior to medical treatments or due to an existing condition which could affect their fertility.
There are competing voices around the efficacy of egg freezing. Some suggest that embryo freezing is far more successful; others point to the importance of the age of the patient when they freeze their eggs or the number of eggs being frozen as being key to the success of future treatment. The process however should not be viewed as a guaranteed way of ensuring a future pregnancy, many frozen eggs prove not to be viable when thawed and also any treatment in the future still needs viable sperm to succeed.
Like a lot of procedures related to IVF the cost of egg freezing does vary between country and clinic. It is wise therefore to spend some time researching and talking to a number of clinics to get a feel for their competence in this area.
Ultimately, you need to be confident of their ability to carry out the procedure and safely store your frozen eggs.