Rita Ora has revealed she had her eggs frozen in her early twenties in order to help her have a “big family” in later life.
Speaking on an Australian TV show, the 26-year-old reportedly said a family doctor recommended having the procedure.
The singer was reportedly told: “You’re healthiest now and I think it would be great, why don’t you put them away now and you’ll never have to worry about it again?”
But what does egg freezing involve and should women consider having it themselves?
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is the process of collecting some of a woman’s eggs and freezing them, preserving the eggs at their current “age” for a maximum of 10 years.
These eggs are then thawed and used at a later date via fertility treatment in the hopes of helping a woman have a baby.
Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director at Create Fertility explains the collection process.
“It consists of daily hormone injections for up to two weeks, followed by an outpatient procedure to collect eggs for freezing,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“She will need two to three ultrasound scans and blood tests to monitor the ripening of eggs.”
Eggs are collected using a needle that’s passed through the vagina and into each ovary. The patient will usually be under general anaesthetic or sedation.
When a woman feels ready to try fertility treatment, her eggs can then be injected with her partner’s or a donor’s sperm via IVF.
Why might a woman want to freeze her eggs?
Not being in a relationship, wanting to focus on your career, having a family history of early menopause or simply not feeling you’re ready for a child can all be reasons women freeze their eggs.
“Women who wish to delay starting a family consider egg freezing in order to bank their biological age and increase their chance of having a baby with their own eggs in the future,” Professor Nargund says.
“The most common reason is the absence of partner.”
Sarah, 44, previously told HuffPost UK this was the reason she chose to freeze her eggs at the age of 41.
“You hear a lot of stuff in the media about the fact that you’re potentially going to fall off the fertility cliff, especially once you pass your mid-thirties,” she said.
“There was a lot of conflict in my mind at the time. I wasn’t able to focus on any other key areas in my life, because I was so focused on trying to find Mr Right before I fell off this ‘fertility cliff’.”
What is the success rate of freezing eggs?
According to Professor Nargund, the success of egg freezing has increased significantly with the use of the latest vitrification (fast freezing) technology and nearly 90% of frozen eggs can survive the thawing process.
However, success of fertilisation after thawing is still dependent on a number of factors, including the woman’s age.
“We advise women to consider freezing their eggs in their early 30s for a higher success rate in the future. A woman’s fertility declines sharply from the age of 35,” she says.
“Studies have shown that if a woman freezes around 10-12 eggs before the age of 35, she could have a 40-50% chance of having a baby using her frozen eggs later in life. For comparison, a 45-year-old woman has around a 5% chance of having a baby with her fresh eggs alone.”
What are the risks of egg freezing?
While the majority of egg freezing procedures are carried out without side effects, Emma Soos, managing director of The Women’s Health Clinic, says women should be aware no medical procedure is without risks.
“Harvesting eggs can be a testing time on a woman’s body with the potential for serious medical risks such as pelvic and abdominal pain; injury to the bladder, bowels, or blood vessels; pelvic infection; damage to the ovaries; and ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (when ovaries become swollen or painful),” she tells HuffPost UK.
“To stimulate eggs you face two-weeks worth of injections and then an operation under sedation to remove them.
“Although this sort of thing is commonplace, there is a risk as with any medical procedure and psychologically this can be tough for a woman to contemplate.”
According to Soos, in a study of more 1,000 patients who’d undergone the procedure 2.8% experienced some vaginal bleeding afterwards while 0.7% experienced “severe pain” and required hospitalisation.
On top of this Soos says it’s important to do your research and visit a trusted medical clinic.
“You have to make sure that whatever storage facility you entrust them to is absolutely stringent in their policies and follows the legal structures that are in place,” she says.
“Damage to the eggs or mislabelling are potential risks when looking in to further fertility treatment down the line.”
She adds that it’s important to remember egg freezing is just the start of the process.
“It is worth remembering that once ready to implant you’re back to a round of injections and medication which can be a lot for your body to handle emotionally in such a stressful time,” she says.
How can women access egg freezing?
Egg freezing is currently only available on the NHS for women who are diagnosed with cancer and want to preserve eggs before starting treatment.
The majority of women will have to visit a private medical practice for egg freezing, where a cycle can cost between £4,000 - £5,000 per treatment.
However, some companies also offer egg freezing services for free to their female employees.
In 2014 Facebook and Apple both announced they would pay for employees to have the procedure.
The move was divisive, with some calling the option “progressive” while others believed it was “creepy” and put women under pressure to delay motherhood.
Ultimately, no one can tell a woman whether egg freezing is right for her, it’s a choice each of us must make on our own (if we can afford it).
Speak to your GP for advice or visit a fertility clinic for more information.