What You Need to Know About Egg Freezing
Egg Freezing, or mature oocyte preservation, is a process in which a woman’s eggs are extracted, frozen, and stored as a method of preserving her future fertility. As time goes on, more and more women are leading busier lives, obtaining advanced educations, and pursuing successful careers. These life events can make finding time to have a baby challenging and trying to balance motherhood with their daily responsibilities nearly impossible. Women freeze their eggs for many reasons including medical diagnoses or future treatments that could potentially affect the quality of their eggs. Whatever the reason you are researching egg freezing, in this article, we will provide you with 8 things to know about the process, including; how much it costs, the benefits, and more!
You Can Freeze Eggs at Any Age
Age is an important factor in the egg freezing process, but still, you can freeze eggs at any age. When you freeze your eggs, they do not age like your body or deteriorate in quality like your ovarian reserve. Instead, your chances of having a child with frozen eggs are all based on the age of the eggs you’re using, not your biological age at the time you use them. Egg freezing allows patients to slow down their biological clocks.
Research indicates that the highest probability of live birth with egg freezing occurs when a woman freezes her eggs prior to the age of 34 . However, most women don’t consider egg freezing until later in life. The good news is, research has shown egg freezing can also benefit older women. In one study, researchers found that egg freezing provides the greatest improvement in the probability of live birth compared to no action when performed at age 37. When a woman chooses to freeze her eggs at 37, the probability of live birth more than doubles to 51.6% compared to 21.9% if they were to take no fertility preservation measures.
If you are approaching the age of 40, there is a good chance you can still produce viable eggs. If you are in your late 30s and are still considering egg freezing, don’t be discouraged, but schedule an evaluation appointment sooner rather than later. As displayed in the figures below, women who choose to freeze their eggs prior to the age of 40 still have a reasonably high percentage of normal eggs and an ovarian reserve of around 13,000. After 40, these numbers decline, but it is important to remember these are averages and each individual should be evaluated as such.
In regards to getting pregnant with frozen eggs, research shows that women in their 40s can get pregnant with eggs they froze earlier in life. Studies have shown that women can get pregnant with frozen eggs well into their 40s . In fact, fertility specialists agree that a woman over 40 is more likely to achieve a healthy pregnancy using frozen eggs originating from her mid-30s than trying IVF or ICSI with fresh over-40-year-old oocytes .
There Are Many Reasons to Freeze Eggs
Egg freezing is a wonderful method for single women to preserve their fertility for the future. Many couples choose to freeze both their eggs and sperm as well. Aside from freezing oocytes for elective reasons, cryopreservation of oocytes is also indicated for women with cancer requiring therapies putting their reproductive futures at risk or those at risk for premature ovarian failure. Studies have shown that future fertility is a concern for many women diagnosed with cancer . Treatments that can save cancer patients’ lives like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can impact survivors by impairing their reproductive and endocrine health.
In addition to cancer, women may also freeze their eggs if they learn they have endometriosis or other fertility-threatening medical conditions. Research has shown that egg freezing presents as a viable fertility preservation method for endometriosis patients . Egg freezing is recommended for endometriosis patients because it is minimally invasive and has little to no effect on future ovarian reserve . Fertility specialists believe that endometriosis affects fertility by reducing ovarian reserve and causing a decrease in egg quality. As such, patients may choose to freeze their eggs shortly after learning of their endometriosis diagnosis.
Reasons to freeze eggs include:
- You are diagnosed with a condition or discover a circumstance that can affect your fertility, i.e. premature ovarian failure due to chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Turner syndrome, Fragile X syndrome), or a family history of early menopause.
- You need treatment for cancer or another illness that may affect your future ability to conceive.
- You are undergoing surgery that may affect your ovaries or you have a genetic disorder that requires your ovaries to be removed altogether.
- You are undergoing IVF and prefer to freeze eggs instead of embryos.
- You are transitioning genders and you want to maintain your reproductive potential.
- You are looking to save younger eggs for future use.
The Egg Freezing Process
The egg freezing process starts with a consultation with a fertility specialist. During your consultation, you will share your fertility and family planning goals with your physician. They will review your medical history, fertility history, and recent bloodwork and ultrasound results to recommend the appropriate treatment. If it is indicated, they make recommend additional fertility testing, and if you have a male partner, they will likely be sent for some male fertility testing as well. If you decide to move forward with egg freezing, they will make medication recommendations, and together you will establish your treatment protocol.
Your egg freezing cycle will start with ovarian stimulation via hormone injections. These hormones will stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs, rather than the single egg that typically develops each cycle. During the stimulation phase, you will need to have a number of monitoring appointments to ensure your body is responding well to the medications. During these office visits, you will undergo transvaginal ultrasounds and bloodwork. Most women require 3-5 monitoring appointments during the stimulation phase. Your doctor will use the information collected from these appointments to refine your medication, treatment protocol, and schedule.
After the stimulation phase is complete it is time for your egg retrieval procedure. The egg retrieval is a fairly simple surgical procedure that takes between 5 and 15 minutes. Prior to the start of the procedure, an anesthesiologist will administer light anesthesia. The anesthesiologist will stand by and monitor you throughout the procedure. After the anesthetic has taken effect, your fertility doctor will use a small needle to drain the ovarian follicles of their fluid containing the mature eggs. The follicular fluid is then taken to the embryology lab to search for and isolate your eggs in preparation for freezing. Our state of the art embryology labs are located steps from our operating rooms. The procedure is minimally invasive and does not require any cutting or stitching. Although we recommend resting, many women are comfortable returning to work the next day.
Freezing the Eggs
After the lab isolates and preps your eggs, they are frozen. At CNY Fertility, we use a flash-freezing technique called vitrification which dehydrates and freezes the eggs instantaneously providing the best survival rate upon thawing. After freezing, the eggs are moved to our in-house long term storage tanks. The eggs are available for your use whenever you’re ready.
It May Take More Than One Cycle
Depending on a few factors including your age, ovarian reserve, and hormone levels, you may require more than one cycle to produce an ample amount of eggs to preserve your fertility for the future. Although you can freeze as many eggs as you’d like, fertility specialists recommend freezing 10-15 eggs per planned pregnancy attempt. Please be aware that is just a general guideline and your physician will be able to recommend an appropriate goal number of eggs for freezing based on your individual case.
Some patients respond extremely well to ovarian stimulation and produce enough eggs in one cycle to accomplish their family-building goals. Other women may require multiple cycles if they plan to have multiple children, or if their ovaries don’t produce many eggs. Women with endometriosis or other conditions known to affect egg count and quality may undergo more than one cycle. Older women or patients suffering from diminished ovarian reserve may also undergo multiple cycles.
For many patients, multiple egg freezing cycles are not an option. If a patient requires immediate cancer treatment they may only have time for one cycle. For those women, any number of eggs they get from one cycle, even if it doesn’t match their ideal number, can still afford them the opportunity to get pregnant in the future. Those women may not have that opportunity in the future if they do not undergo egg freezing.
Insurance Coverage for Egg Freezing
Coverage for fertility treatment and preservation varies according to your insurance plan and what state you live in. It is important to check the regulations for the state you live in and your specific insurance plan. Insurance providers offer many plans and some cover treatment while others do not.
New York State passed an infertility mandate on January 1, 2020. The policy requires large group insurance providers to cover medically necessary IVF and Fertility preservation treatment. New York State’s website has a page dedicated to the IVF and Fertility Preservation Law the provides frequently asked questions and guidance.
At CNY Fertility, prior to your consultation, you will have the opportunity to upload your insurance information and speak with our financial team. You may not be afforded this opportunity and service at other clinics, so it is important to call your insurance company and see what’s covered. At CNY, we also offer in-house financing for fertility preservation that allows you to split the cost of treatment into more manageable payments over two years.
Egg Freezing Can Be Affordable
According to Fertility IQ, egg freezing costs between $15,000 and $20,000 per cycle. While that number sounds high, it doesn’t even include all of the associated costs and fees included with the egg freezing process like yearly storage. Some clinics charge up to $1,200 per year for egg storage fees. Let’s break down these costs to discover the real cost of egg freezing and to show how egg freezing can be affordable.
As discussed, each egg freezing cycle typically requires ovarian stimulation. The cost of medications for ovarian stimulation can vary greatly from patient to patient and is usually in the range of $2,000 to $6,000 dollars. At most clinics, your doctor will recommend medications and order them for you to your local pharmacy or through a large fertility specialty pharmacy. At CNY Fertility, our financial team will assist you to find the most affordable medications possible.
Now that medications are covered, you still have to pay for your treatment at the clinic. The average cost of monitoring, egg retrieval, and anesthesia altogether is about $11,000. At CNY Fertility, we charge $2,995 for all of the following; your retrieval, anesthesia, cryopreservation, and one year of storage of your eggs. Monitoring at CNY costs $995. When you combine our costs, you get a total of $3990, more than $7,000 less than the national average. Don’t forget, we also offer financing for egg freezing!
Now that your eggs have been retrieved, what about storage? As mentioned, your first year of storage at CNY Fertility is free. After the first year, we charge $450/year to keep your eggs stored. Most other clinics charge at least $500/ year for storage and some charge up o $1,200.
Embryo Freezing is Another Option
Embryo freezing is another fertility preservation option for couples or women who have already identified a sperm donor. Embryo freezing follows the same path as egg freezing up through the retrieval process, but then instead of freezing the eggs, the mature oocytes are fertilized in an IVF/ embryology lab. The resulting embryos are then frozen.
Similar to egg freezing, embryo freezing can be done electively or out of medical necessity. Studies have shown that freezing embryos and storing them for later usage is significantly associated with improved pregnancy rates for patients over the age of 35 . Embryo freezing has also shown effective in providing good chances for future fertility in endometriosis and cancer patients . Embryo freezing is a more involved process that does require either a partner’s or donor’s sperm at the time of the procedure. For this reason, many single women choose egg freezing over embryo freezing.
Split Cycle Freezing
Since the egg and embryo retrieval processes are so similar, and because they follow the same steps all the way up through the retrieval, some women choose to fertilize only a portion of their eggs and freeze the rest. This is known as a split cycle. Split cycles allow women to preserve their fertility with a known donor or partner’s sperm, while also saving some of her own biological eggs to be fertilized later. This gives women the benefit of higher live birth rates of embryos (should they not find a partner later in life), but still allows for the flexibility to fertilize eggs with partner sperm should they find a partner.
Some women also go into their retrieval with a set number of embryos they would like to create. After they achieve that number, they may choose to freeze and donate the rest of their eggs.
There are Many Benefits of Egg Freezing
- Egg quality diminishes with age – As women get older, the percentage of chromosomally abnormal eggs increases. Eggs do not age after they are frozen, they stay the same age as when they were retrieved. Freezing eggs at a younger age ensures a larger portion of eggs are normal when you are ready to have your family.
- Egg supply is finite – Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have. Egg supply can be affected by many factors including early menopause, premature ovarian failure, endometriosis, and more. Egg supply is also greatly affected by age. Egg freezing helps to ensure you can use your own eggs to have biologically related children.
- Egg freezing allows women more time to focus on themselves – For many women having a career or pursuing advanced education is of equal importance to becoming a mother. It doesn’t seem fair that women should have to choose one or the other. Egg freezing allows women to take control and decide when they are ready to have children without worrying about age-related effects on egg quality. It enables women to establish a secure relationship, focus on their professional goals, and ultimately gives them the choice to get pregnant when the time is right for them, not because their biological clock says so.
- Egg freezing results in babies – Technology surrounding egg cryopreservation technology and ovarian stimulation protocols have advanced greatly in the past 5 years. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of eggs produced and the number of mature oocytes that survive the freezing process . At CNY Fertility, we use state of the art vitrification methods and we have invested over 1 billion dollars to ensure our laboratories are state of the art. Advances in the egg freezing process and invitro fertilization (IVF) process are resulting in more successful pregnancies every year.
- It provides peace of mind and puts you in control – Egg freezing can provide you with a feeling of comfort, especially for single women. There’s nothing worse than being pestered by family or friends to find a spouse or have a baby. While we can’t guarantee that egg freezing will stop your mom from calling and asking when she can expect her first grandchild, it can provide you with a feeling of control and peace of mind. When you’re ready to get pregnant, your eggs will be there waiting.
- It can preserve your fertility before surgery or treatment – Being diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer can be difficult and stressful enough without having to consider your future fertility. With egg freezing, you can focus 100% on beating your cancer instead of worry about how your treatment may affect your fertility.
- It allows transgender patients the opportunity to have biologically related children in the future – The transitioning process offers hope for many patients, but it can also be hard, very very hard. Many patients don’t consider the effects their treatment will have on their future fertility, and it is often the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, when they decide they want to have children later in life, it may be impossible for them to have a biological child. That is why we are working with transgender clinics and specialists across the U.S. to raise awareness about the importance of fertility preservation for transgender patients.
Egg freezing is a wonderful option for women to take control and preserve their future fertility. Egg freezing can be affordable and we encourage you to shop around before making any decisions. Pricing can vary greatly from city to city and most patients still end up saving thousands of dollars when they travel and freeze their eggs at our clinics instead of completing the process with their local clinic. We hope this article has helped clear up some of your questions on egg freezing!