Information on the topic: «Autologous Egg Donation»
Why freeze egg cells? «Autologous Egg Donation»
At birth, a woman has approx. 1.000.000 egg cells. At the time she reaches puberty, there are approximately 100.000 egg cells left. Women do not produce new egg cells after birth. Until menopause, several egg cells mature every month until none are left. Not only does the quantity deteriorate, but the quality of each egg cell also decreases disproportionately with increasing age. The longer an egg cell remains in a woman's body, the more likely it is unhealthy. Unhealthy egg cells cannot be fertilized, lead more often to miscarriages or children with disabilities (e.g. children with Down's syndrome).
The monthly chance of becoming pregnant decreases after the 35th birthday of a woman, so that two of three women, who wish to have a child after their 40th birthday, will remain childless. Freezing egg cells when a woman is 36, for instance, will increase the chance of begetting a child at the age of 40, and that with the prospects and risks of a 36 year old woman (egg cell provision).
Ovary function / age limit
The younger a woman and her egg cells are, the higher the chance of having a child. Some women are born with less egg cells than others. Other women have ovaries that are not fully functional for as long due to genetic reasons or benign diseases (e.g. Endometriosis). In this case, it may be a good idea to cryopreserve egg cells before the 35th birthday (example: own mother's menopause started very early). Your gynecologist can determine the ovary function via an ultrasound test of the vagina and a hormone test during the first days of the cycle. We do not freeze egg cells after the 41st birthday. In order to freeze egg cells, the chance of pregnancy must be at least 10 % (determined by number of egg cells and your age).
The chances of conceiving a child via egg cell extraction are comparable to those of in-vitro fertilization (30-40% chance per egg extraction). The younger you are, the higher the chance of the therapy leading to a successful pregnancy. The chance of becoming pregnant therefore depends on your date of birth and the number of collected egg cells:
- under the age of 35: 4 % chance per egg cell
- under the age of 40: 2% chance per egg cell
- 40 years: 1 % chance per egg cell
- 34 year old patient, 12 egg cells: One of two women will give birth to a child after an egg cell extraction
- 39 year old patient, 12 egg cells: One of four women will give birth to a child after an egg cell extraction
Process: Freezing of unfertilized egg cells / Preservation of a woman's fertility
Follicle maturation is stimulated for approx. 2 weeks with daily FSH-hormone injections under the skin, so that, ideally, 10 to 15 follicles can grow. Before ovulation, the egg cells are extracted during an ultrasound checkup with a fine needle via the vagina from the ovaries. An anesthesiologist will administer medication intravenously so you will feel no pain (no general or local anesthetic). You cannot work on this day. The healthy egg cells will then be frozen in the Laboratory for Assisted Reproductive Technologies of Viollier AG via the vitrification method (egg cell bank) and stored at -196 degrees Celsius. If the desired pregnancy cannot be achieved naturally in a future partnership, the egg cells can be defrosted and fertilized with the sperm of your partner outside of your body. The embryo will then be inserted into your uterus through a fine tube. After two weeks, a pregnancy test will be conducted in order to determine the success of the treatment.
Freezing of the egg cell
Egg cells are very sensitive to changes in temperature. Until recently, only very few egg cells survived the freezing/unfreezing process. Cryopreservation of unfertilized egg cells was therefore only used with young patients who had malignant diseases and no partner. Due to the new vitrification technology, on average over 80 % of all egg cells survive the freezing/unfreezing process. With the addition of a chemical preservative, the egg cells are then rapidly cooled down (20.000 °C per minute) to – 196 °C and can be preserved for years.
We have been preserving fertilized egg cells with both cryopreservation methods for years. Many children were born after unfreezing fertilized egg cells. We first began freezing unfertilized egg cells in the summer of 2010. So far, no woman has wished to unfreeze the egg cells. Our supervisor (Prof. Al-Hasani, Germany) was significantly involved globally in the development of the new freezing method for unfertilized egg cells (vitrification) and is responsible for the implementation of the process here.
- The costs are not covered by the health insurance.
- The overall costs amount to a maximum of CHF 5400.- per egg cell extraction cycle (medication, checkups, anesthesiologist, freezing of the egg cells and storage costs for one year).
- The annual storage fee for egg cells is approx. CHF 200.-.
- Preliminary examinations cost approx. CHF 250.-.
- In case the egg cell extraction is conducted multiple times in order to freeze enough egg cells, the third cycle costs CHF 4500.- max.
- Fertilization of egg cells with sperm and embryo transfer currently amounts to a cost of CHF 2800.-.
Health risks for the woman
The highest risk involved is that the treatment does not result in the desired pregnancy. The hormonal stimulation of the ovaries can lead to an overreaction of the ovary. In rare cases, bleeding, infections or even injury of adjoining organs can occur during egg cell extraction. These complications are, however, extremely rare (less than 1 in 1000 cases).
Health risks for the child
Until today, worldwide 1000 children at the most have been born following an «autologous egg donation». The risk of an unhealthy child does not seem to be increased by the egg cell cryopreservation. However, there must be at least approx. 100.000 births to determine this factor.
Reasons for freezing unfertilized egg cells
- Women with malignant diseases before chemotherapy, who do not have a partner (if they have a partner, fertilized egg cells are frozen)
- Couples who wish for extracorporeal fertilization and who reject cryopreservation of fertilized egg cells for ethical reasons.
- Women without a partner who want to preserve their chances of motherhood for a possible future partnership («Retarding the biological clock»)
- Life without children
- Conceiving a child via egg donation abroad at an advanced age
Unfertilized egg cells, just like sperm cells, may be stored up to five years in Switzerland. Women with malignant diseases can have them stored longer. Fertilization of egg cells is only possible for heterosexual couples in Switzerland. A couple does not have to be married; however, a stable partnership is a legal requirement so that the child has a mother and a father. Donor sperm fertilization is only possible for married couples.
It is important for women who wish to have children to make plans for both a career as well as a family. This should be done before the 35th birthday, as chances of becoming pregnant are then highest. Under no circumstances should egg cell cryopreservation be used to delay having a desired child in a stable partnership.
«Autologous Egg Donations» (Cryopreservation)
The Kinderwunschzentrum Basel offers you the possibility of «autologous egg donation»– a new chance for your family planning. Just read the following topics or download the complete documentation .
- Why cryopreserve egg cells?
- Target group
1. Why cryopreserve egg cells?
Do you wish to have a child but have not found the right partner yet? Do you feel pressured by your «biological clock»? Then you can have egg cells collected and frozen – so you can access them at a later point in time.
2. Target group
«Autologous egg donation» can be a suitable method of you, if you
- are a single woman wishing to have a child («biological clock» or in case of benign ovary diseas
- are suffering from a disease and have to undergo chemotherapy treatment
- reject cryopreservation of fertilized egg cells for ethical reasons
Before ovulation, multiple egg cells are collected from your ovary. These egg cells are then frozen. If you have found a suitable partner, the egg cells can be unfrozen and fertilized. The embryo will then be inserted into your uterus.