Cutting-Edge Egg Freezing: A Game-Changer for Late-in-Life Pregnancy Success?
If you don’t feel ready to have children yet you are certainly not alone. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show us that women under 18s are having fewer babies, women between the ages of 30 and 34 are having the highest number of babies of any age group, and the number of babies born from women aged 35 and above are also steadily increasing. This suggests that women are opting to have children later and later in life. There are many reasons this may be the case, from not finding the right partner to focussing on a career.
When it comes to understanding if egg freezing is your best chance at getting pregnant later in life, we must first understand the link between age and fertility. When we talk about a woman’s ‘fertility’, we are referring to not only the number of eggs available in a woman’s ovarian reserve but the quality of those eggs. The older a woman gets, the less fertile she becomes. A woman is at her most fertile around age 30, and after this point, fertility slowly starts to decline. From age 35 this decline happens much more quickly as menopause approaches. Although it is possible to get pregnant naturally after 35, it becomes much more difficult. Not only this, but getting pregnant later in life brings with it a much higher risk of genetic abnormalities for the child (conditions like Down’s syndrome, for example), and greater risks for the mother during pregnancy.
There are a few options when it comes to getting pregnant later in life. Although it is possible to get pregnant naturally, the chances of this may be slim with your own eggs. This means that it may be a wise decision to look into alternative options. These can include:
- IVF using frozen eggs
- IVF using donor eggs
Surrogacy involves a woman (the surrogate) carrying and delivering a baby on someone else’s behalf. In 2021, it was found that the number of parents using a surrogate to extend their family had quadrupled in the last decade.
When undergoing surrogacy, the surrogate will either provide her own egg(s) or donor egg(s) will be used. These are then inseminated with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm. After the baby is born, the surrogate will be the child’s legal parent at birth, and this is then transferred to you by parental order or adoption. This is because, under UK law, if someone has given birth to a child, regardless of whether a donor egg is used, they are always considered the legal mother before the parental order or adoption is completed.
If you use donor sperm, the donor will not be the legal parent and will not have any legal obligation to any child(ren) born through the use of their sperm.
How much does surrogacy cost in the UK?
It is currently illegal to advertise for or pay a surrogate, though you are responsible for any reasonable expenses incurred, such as travel expenses, medical costs and maternity clothes. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), ‘surrogates typically receive £10,000-£15,000, although this will depend on your circumstances’.
IVF using frozen eggs
Age of the woman at the time of egg freezing is the most important factor in the success of IVF when using frozen eggs. It is generally acknowledged that the best age to freeze your eggs is in your late twenties. UK law has recently changed to allow eggs to be frozen for up to 55 years from the date on which they were first placed in storage, giving a woman in her twenties plenty of time to decide whether she would like to use the eggs to conceive a pregnancy.
Because of the decline in fertility, women over 40 who freeze their eggs will have a very slim chance of pregnancy, compared to women over 40 using eggs that were frozen at a younger age.
If a woman decides to freeze her eggs before she is 35, when she uses the eggs the chance of conception will be much higher than if she was trying to get pregnant naturally.
Once the woman is ready to have a baby, the frozen eggs are thawed before being fertilised with sperm (either from a partner or a donor) to create embryos. The best quality embryo (usually one or two) is then transferred to the woman’s uterus.
If you are starting your journey and looking for an IVF clinic in London, the good news is that you will find plenty with highly qualified and experienced fertility doctors. London is home to some of the finest fertility doctors in the world.
Using donor eggs can be a good option for women who are over 35 but do not have their own eggs frozen.
IVF using donor eggs
Egg donation can be a good option for women who are over 35 as the age of the woman at the time of the eggs thawing has little to no impact on the chance of success.
There are many reasons a woman may choose to use donor eggs in place of her own. Some of the most common reasons include age, having an inheritable health condition they do not want to pass on to the baby, and having health conditions like Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), which means a woman may not have any eggs of her own.
Donor eggs can be chosen based on physical characteristics such as height, hair colour and skin tone. Some women choose characteristics that are akin to their own in order to increase the chances of having a baby that looks physically similar to them.
The process of using donor eggs for IVF is much the same as using frozen eggs.
Best chance of becoming pregnant later in life
Is egg freezing your best chance of becoming later in life? The data suggests that this may be the case, but ultimately what you choose to do is a personal decision and there are many factors that can influence this important decision. We wish you the best of luck on your fertility journey.