Egg freezing (or mature oocyte cryopreservation) preserves a woman’s ability to get pregnant and helps plan a couple’s future family setup. Ideally, a woman should freeze her eggs before 35 years for a higher chance of a successful pregnancy.
During this medical procedure, your fertility doctor harvests eggs from your ovaries and freezes them unfertilized for future use. When you feel the time is right for pregnancy, your doctor thaws the frozen eggs, fertilizes them with sperm from the partner or a donor, and then implants the embryo into the uterus (IVF).
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Why Egg Freezing Is a Good Idea for Young Couples
When you don’t want to get pregnant, but plan to do so in the future, egg freezing guarantees that your pregnancy attempt will be highly successful. The doctor prescribes fertility drugs to stimulate multiple egg production, then freezes them unfertilized.
You are a good candidate for egg freezing under these circumstances.
- You have a medical condition (such as lupus, sickle cell anemia, or being transgender) that could affect your fertility.
- You have a terminal illness and are concerned that chemotherapy or radiation might harm your fertility.
- You are undergoing In-vitro fertilization: you may prefer to freeze your eggs for ethical or religious reasons.
- You want to preserve younger eggs until you’re ready to get pregnant.
How Much Does Egg Freezing Cost
Egg freezing costs depend on your insurance coverage; some may cover your initial medical assessment and a portion of the treatment.
Forbes estimates the cost of thawing the egg, fertilizing it, and transferring the embryo to be about $10,000 to $20,000. And between egg thawing and delivery, a couple could spend up to $50,000. Each year you keep your eggs in supercooled storage at your fertility clinic could cost you about $600.
Is Egg Freezing Safe for You?
Before your doctor performs egg freezing, it’s ethical to consider the safety of the would-be mother and the child resulting from the pregnancy. During egg extraction, some patients may produce superovulation caused by the administered fertility hormones.
In this case, the ovaries may swell, with fluid collecting in the abdomen (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). The woman may also experience nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. However, these circumstances are few, and egg freezing remains a viable way to plan your future family.
What to Expect During Egg Freezing
Here’s what to expect before, during, and after egg freezing.
At the fertility clinic, your doctor will take your medical history, focusing on fertility, assess the consistency of your menstrual cycle, and test your blood hormone levels.
Since an ovary only releases one egg per month, your doctor prescribes hormonal treatment to stimulate the release of more eggs. This treatment also includes taking birth control pills before starting the hormone injections to suppress the body’s natural cycle and make the hormones more effective.
The hormone injections include:
- 2-week injection of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to encourage more egg production.
- A gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) injection halfway through the cycle to deter early ovulation.
- A Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) injection stimulates ovulation.
The doctor monitors the hormone effects closely and performs an ultrasound to detect ovulation or assess egg development.
Your fertility doctor retrieves the mature eggs from the ovarian follicles, using ultrasound to guide the procedure and sometimes through minimally-invasive surgery in the abdomen. After extracting the healthy eggs, the doctors freeze them immediately.
In the future, when the woman is ready to get pregnant, she undergoes in-vitro fertilization, where the doctor implants a fertilized egg (embryo) into the uterus for a successful surgery.
Egg Freezing FAQ
Q: When was the first birth using frozen eggs recorded?
A: The first birth from frozen eggs occurred in 1986.
Q: How many eggs should I freeze for one baby?
A: You should freeze at least 10-15 healthy eggs for every pregnancy attempt you are planning.
Q: Can I freeze my eggs at 40?
A: You can freeze your eggs at 40 if you have a good ovarian reserve. But remember that preserving at a younger age, or 20-30 years, has higher pregnancy success rates.
Q: How long can I store my eggs while frozen?
A: While storing frozen eggs for extended periods has no negative effect, eggs stored for four years still look perfect for achieving a pregnancy.
Q: What are the risks of carrying a pregnancy when over 40?
A: late pregnancies are associated with complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, and the need for a cesarean section.
Q: Are there risks to the offspring conceived from a frozen egg?
A: There are no known risks of using frozen-thawed oocytes to conceive.
Q: What are the most important factors determining a pregnancy’s success?
A: The woman’s egg at the time of extracting the eggs for freezing and the number of available eggs highly influence the success rate of pregnancy.