Understanding the process of freezing your eggs
Freezing eggs allows you to preserve your mature eggs for use in the future. For example, if you want to become a parent some time down the line but aren’t ready yet, you can preserve your eggs and utilize them later for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
What Does it Mean to Freeze Your Eggs?
Technically called oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing involves:
- Medication administration that helps stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.
- Retrieval of mature eggs (oocytes).
- Freezing and storage of the retrieved eggs (cryopreservation).
When you are ready to utilize the eggs to conceive, they are thawed and fertilized with sperm from your male partner or another donor to create an embryo. This embryo can then be implanted into your, or a surrogate’s, uterus.
It is important to understand before committing to freezing your eggs that not every egg—and sometimes no eggs—will successfully become viable embryos after thawing and fertilization.
What Is the Process of Freezing Your Eggs?
Before you start the egg freezing process, a fertility specialist will need to evaluate your ovaries with a blood test and possibly an ultrasound to see how likely they are to make viable eggs. You may also undergo screening for certain diseases, such as HIV.
To prepare for egg retrieval, you’ll be given hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries. These medications, given for 10-12 days, will help your ovaries create multiple oocytes. You may receive repeated ultrasounds so your specialist can determine when you’re ready for egg retrieval.
The egg retrieval process itself is a relatively short medical procedure performed while you are sedated. Your doctor will perform an internal ultrasound to locate the mature eggs and then collects as many as possible using a small needle.
The collected eggs are frozen and stored in tanks with liquid nitrogen until they are thawed for pregnancy purposes.
How Much Does It Cost to Freeze Your Eggs?
The average cost to freeze your eggs tends to range between $10,000 and $20,000. This includes the procedure and the medications given prior to the procedure.
Make sure to consider the added costs of storing your frozen eggs (and eventually using them). The annual cost to store your eggs can range from $500 to $1,000. And once you’re ready to fertilize those eggs to create embryos that can be implanted through IVF, this can add thousands more dollars to the bill.
Who Should Consider Freezing Their Eggs?
Only you (and your fertility specialist) can decide if egg freezing is right for you. However, generally, egg freezing can benefit those who:
- Want to become parents later in life but want to preserve their eggs at a younger age.
- Have conditions that hinder their fertility such as ovarian cysts.
- Will begin treatment for cancer that may damage their eggs.
- Are transgender and wish to preserve their eggs before transitioning from female to male.
FAQs About Freezing Your Eggs
What’s the best age to freeze your eggs?
While any woman with the ability to produce mature eggs can freeze them, the best time to do it is before age 35. After 35, the success rate of egg retrieval declines. The age at which a woman freezes her eggs is one of the main contributors to success of the process.
Should I Freeze Eggs or Embryos?
There is no right answer to the question of whether to freeze your eggs or fertilize those eggs and then freeze the embryos.
Freezing embryos may be more expensive than simply freezing eggs. Also, some intended parents may struggle with the ethics of potentially discarding unused embryos. Furthermore, ownership of frozen embryos is less clear than ownership of frozen eggs or sperm in the case that two partners separate. Embryo freezing, however, can help to preserve not only healthy eggs but healthy sperm as well. It may also reduce the amount of times egg retrieval is required (as not all fertilized eggs become embryos), and tends to be correlated with higher chances of success as embryos are more likely to survive the freezing and thawing process. Lastly, freezing embryos can allow you to test the quality of your biology and understand your chances of success, while it is difficult to determine the quality of egg freezing.
You can speak with your fertility specialist about these issues and more as you determine what’s right for you and your family.
What are the side effects of freezing your eggs?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, ovary-stimulating hormones used before egg retrieval may cause:
- Hot flashes
- Mood changes
After egg retrieval, some mild cramping, bloating and pain may arise.
Can I freeze my eggs while I’m on birth control?
No, you will need to go off birth control during the cycle in which you freeze your eggs.
How long can my eggs be frozen?
Eggs can be frozen indefinitely. However, there’s no guarantee they will survive when they are thawed. Case studies have shown that intended parents have had success using eggs frozen for 13 years. Your fertility team can advise you of the ideal time frame in which to use your frozen eggs.
Get Started with the Egg Freezing Process
Freezing your eggs can help provide some peace of mind and offset the stress of feeling as though you must start a family before you’re ready. Knowing you have frozen eggs can afford you the flexibility to start your journey to parenthood when the time is right.
When you’re ready to explore your options for egg freezing or other fertility planning measures, you can schedule time with one of our financial advocates to develop a manageable plan to cover the expenses.