Are you in the middle of your fertility journey and considering using frozen donor eggs from an egg bank? Have you found a suitable egg donor yet? Or perhaps the waiting time at your clinic is too long? Are you curious how egg banks work? If yes, watch the above video recording of our webinar on “Frozen donor eggs: quality, availability and safety” prepared in collaboration with California Cryobank.
The webinar was presented by Heidi Hayes, Executive Vice President of California Cryobank
which is a USA based international egg & sperm bank supplying clinics and patients all around the world. Heidi has over 25 years’ experience in healthcare. In 2010, she started Donor Egg Bank USA
with a partner, Michael Levy, MD., which was the first egg bank to transport frozen eggs for patients in the US. Currently, the egg bank has over 120 partners on two continents.
Heidi not only has expert knowledge about ART and patients’ needs, but she has also personally experienced infertility and IVF with donor egg treatment
. Heidi and her husband are the happy parents of three lovely children and have expanded their family through egg donation treatment and adoption. Heidi was happy she had the opportunity to talk to other women who are just starting their egg donation journey.
We hope the knowledge you get from the webinar will help you make a better, well-informed decision on whether to use frozen donor eggs and how to choose an egg donor who will be the best match for you.
Frozen donor eggs from an egg bank
IVF vitrification processes have dramatically improved and the use of frozen donor eggs is a fast-growing medical procedure. However, as wonderful as it is to have an ever-expanding range of options for fertility treatments, this can also present many worries and concerns when deciding which is the right one for creating a much longed for family.
In this webinar, Heidi Hayes, Executive Vice President of the California Cryobank, explains the process of egg freezing and subsequent treatment, discussing their quality, availability and safety. Alongside the medical and professional knowledge Heidi has amassed, she is also the mother of two children who were both conceived from the use of donor eggs.
Even before the question of fresh or frozen is raised, the most important consideration of donated oocytes (eggs) is quality.
Ms Hayes recommends that donors should ideally be between the ages of 18-33 with a healthy weight and lifestyle. As with donated fresh eggs, frozen donor eggs are safe to use if fully screened.
All egg donation services should provide in-depth donor health and psychological testing, with many also offering additional genetic screening; Ms Hayes warns that this type of testing does reduce the risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder but doesn’t completely eradicate the possibility.
There are many differing opinions around how viable a pregnancy actually is from frozen oocytes and Ms Hayes is keen to clarify that, in her experience, frozen eggs are just as good as fresh. However, whilst they may be equal, many external factors do apply to the overall quality.
The skills of the embryologist, in both the vitrifying and thawing processes are key, as are the laboratory equipment and conditions; oocyte quality can easily be compromised due to incorrect temperature and humidity levels. The storage of frozen eggs is also imperative; eggs are fickle and if exposed to air, they could die.
When it comes to fertilising the frozen oocytes, Ms Hayes explains that prior to freezing, eggs are denuded, meaning their cytoplasmic texture is altered and could reduce the fertilisation rate. To overcome this issue, frozen eggs cannot be fertilised using conventional IVF methods and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) must be performed. This is when a single sperm cell is injected directly into the cytoplasm of the egg.
One of the most frequently asked questions, when dealing with frozen oocytes, is how many should be purchased and what are the realistic expectations? In her experience, Ms Hayes would expect that from every eight eggs, circa three would develop into high quality blastocysts. This is based on a rate of 87.9%, or seven oocytes, surviving the thaw, 78.7% fertilising and becoming six embryos, of which three would continue to the five-day (blastocyst) stage. It is expected that the rate from six frozen oocytes would be around two, healthy, five-day blastocysts. However, these are only averages and treatments do result in more or fewer embryos; there is no quick and easy equation.
Whilst biology can never be guaranteed, some programmes do provide assurances regarding their vitrification techniques. The most popular guarantee schemes are oocyte survival, guaranteed three or day five embryos and the certainty of euploidy (embryo/s containing the correct number of normal chromosomes).
Ms Hayes advises that the oocyte thawing promise is not as powerful as suggested as most eggs, if treated properly and professionally, will survive the thaw anyway. The euploid guarantee is something she would also question; euploid embryos do offer a greater and potentially quicker route to pregnancy, however, Ms Hayes states that when using donor eggs, it’s anticipated that approximately 70% of all eggs will result in a euploid embryo. She suggests money would be better spent on the guaranteed three and/or five-day schemes.
Donor availability tends to be higher when using frozen donated eggs as the oocytes have already been retrieved and are ready to go. This also means that logistics, for the cycle, are easier as there is only one patient; no synchronisation between recipient and donor is required.
The use of frozen eggs should result in a decreased timeframe for treatment, but enable an increased range of options as, once vitrified, eggs can potentially be shipped anywhere. The cost implications of frozen oocytes are typically less than using fresh eggs too, yet birth rates are the same. As with any treatment, the birth rate is variable depending on client situation, competency of staff, conditions of laboratories and how many eggs are used.
Whilst Ms Hayes advises equality in the use of frozen and fresh eggs, she does caution that it’s important to understand each case is unique, every patient is an individual and the particular circumstances of each person will inevitably lead to different outcomes. However, whether fresh or frozen, donated eggs truly can provide the ultimate gift, for those struggling to conceive.