AS THE term indicates, egg freezing involves the harvesting of eggs from the ovaries so that they can be frozen unfertilised for use at a subsequent date. Later, when the woman decides she wishes to become pregnant, the assisted reproduction clinic will attempt to carry out in vitro fertilisation by thawing the egg, combining it with sperm and implanting it in the uterus.
When undergoing the procedure, the woman will take a course of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) injections to induce ovulation (carrying a small risk of the painful ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome).
Usually they will self administer the HCG drugs 10 to 14 days before egg removal. On the assumption that the eggs have adequately matured they are 'harvested' at the clinic.
They are retrieved with a needle that is placed through the vagina, the procedure monitored on ultrasound. The patient will be sedated. On average about 10 eggs will have developed to the point where they are ready for fertilisation.
Straight away, the eggs are frozen to a temperature of nearly 200 degrees below freezing. When the time comes to attempt fertilisation, they are thawed and the sperm is injected into the egg. This is necessary because the exterior of the egg hardens during freezing. The process is called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection – ICSI for short.
The cost of egg freezing is in the €3,800-€5,000 range. Until recently, egg freezing was usually conducted for women who were about to undergo a procedure that risked rendering them infertile (such as cancer treatment).
However, several clinics, such as the Dublin and Cork-based Sims IVF, now offer 'social fertility preservation' for women who wish to put off having kids until they are older.