An Overview of Egg Freezing

This year we anticipate more than 10,000 women in the US will freeze their eggs, hoping to preserve their chance to have biological children later in life. Before making the decision to freeze your eggs, there are a number of issues to consider.

The first is whether egg freezing works. The answer: an unequivocal yes. Egg freezing is similar in concept to egg donation, except in this circumstance you are having your eggs retrieved and frozen to be donated to your future self. Egg donation is a proven treatment alternative that has been used successfully in tens of thousands of cycles with a 65% success rate, which is high for this field.

And for how long are one's frozen eggs viable? The answer is it's too early to be certain. That said, there is good reason to think for a fairly long period of time.

A natural follow-up question is whether egg freezing works for every patient. Said differently, is egg freezing a form of insurance? The reality is there are no guarantees — freezing your eggs doesn't mean you will absolutely be able to give birth to a biological child. What is true: your eggs today are more likely to produce a child than your eggs tomorrow.

Two critical determinants of whether your egg freezing cycle is likely to work are the age at which you froze your eggs, and the number of eggs that were frozen. For instance, in one study, women under 35 who froze 15 eggs had 80 - 90% live birth rates using those eggs. For women who froze over the age of 35, and who stored 10 eggs, that rate fell to 30%.

This is why, according to our data, the average woman who freezes her eggs comes back for another cycle: it's hard to know exactly how many eggs you need to have the best shot. Unlike IVF, where you know at the end of a cycle whether or not there's a pregnancy, there's a long feedback loop with egg freezing. If you go forward with the procedure, prepare for an element of uncertainty thereafter.

A logical conclusion would be that the younger a woman freezes her eggs, the better. That's true in some senses, but the reality is that most women in their early 20's will go on to have healthy pregnancies naturally, never needing to return to use frozen eggs. Today, roughly 10% of patients come back to use their eggs. So in the circumstances of many younger women, they may store incredibly high-quality eggs, but never use them.

Like everything in life, egg freezing has downsides. For one, egg freezing is $16,000 per cycle — and that doesn't include annual storage costs. With most women choosing to do more than one cycle, the total cost is likely closer to $25,000 or more. Is that worth it? That depends on how likely you are to use those eggs, the probability that at least one of the frozen eggs will "work", as well as your budget, life goals and more.

Patients often have concerns about the potential medical risks associated with treatment. As it currently stands, doctors believe the long-term medical risks associated with the hormone treatment are minimal, specifically with regards to breast and ovarian cancer. There is, however, a 5% or greater risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which can be temporarily debilitating and serious.

If you decide to move forward with egg freezing, and start shopping for a clinic, really dig in and do your research. If you need to use those eggs, you'll need to have them thawed, inseminated and transferred. That's an IVF cycle. So judge the clinic where you elect to do egg freezing on whether it's a place you'd want to be treated for IVF, which is a more involved, expensive, and emotionally delicate process. Choosing a clinic where you will ultimately be unhappy is costly on every dimension.

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