Should You Freeze Eggs or Embryos? Pros & Cons of Both
When it comes to fertility planning, there are many decisions to make. Choosing between freezing eggs or freezing embryos for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the first big decisions many individuals need to make.
Both can benefit you as you make plans to start a family. Before you choose between the two, make sure to carefully weigh the benefits against the risks. We’ll help you uncover the pros and cons to make an informed choice.
Freezing Eggs vs Freezing Embryos
Freezing eggs involves stimulating the ovaries with hormone medications to produce mature eggs, retrieving those eggs in a quick medical procedure, and then freezing/storing those eggs for later use.
Embryo freezing involves the retrieval of mature eggs, fertilization of those eggs with partner or donor sperm, maturation of the eggs into embryos, and finally the freezing/storage of the embryos.
Freezing Eggs: Pros & Cons of Freezing Eggs instead of Embryos
Pros of Freezing Eggs
Freezing your eggs is a great way to preserve your fertility. With aging, egg health declines and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities rises. Egg freezing allows for the preservation of younger eggs that are more likely to be healthy.
Benefits of freezing your eggs include the following:
- It allows you to save healthy eggs before entering medical care that may be toxic to your eggs, such as cancer treatment.
- It affords you the flexibility to delay starting a family if you aren’t yet ready and you’re worried about being able to conceive naturally later in life.
- It allows you to preserve your eggs prior to undergoing gender affirmation surgery.
- Unlike embryo freezing, the egg freezing process does not require a partner or sperm donor.
- Egg freezing is typically more affordable than embryo freezing.
- If you have frozen your own eggs, there can be no debate over whether you own the eggs (unlike embryos which are created with eggs and sperm).
Cons of Freezing Eggs
While egg freezing can be hugely beneficial, some potential downsides include the following:
- While lower than embryo freezing, the cost of egg freezing can still be prohibitive for many people at up to $10,000 or more plus the cost of ovary-stimulating medications and egg storage.
- There is no guarantee that eggs will survive the thawing process or successfully fertilize. Some people will choose to undergo egg retrieval more than once in order to freeze a larger number of eggs to offset the risk. Unfortunately, that increases the overall cost.
- Medications used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs prior to egg retrieval may cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. While this often leads to mild side effects, in rare cases serious side effects such as blood clots, dehydration, vomiting, and trouble breathing may occur.
- There is no way to test the quality of eggs alone (while embryos can be tested); some women wind up with no healthy embryos after egg freezing and thawing.
Freezing Embryos: Pros & Cons of Freezing Embryos instead of Eggs
Pros of Freezing Embryos
- Like egg freezing, embryo freezing can help preserve fertility for those who wish to delay conception such as those set to undergo cancer treatment, gender affirmation surgery, etc.
- Most embryos survive the thawing process.
- If you have gone through one cycle of IVF with an embryo, you can freeze additional embryos for future cycles.
- Pre-genetic testing is available for embryos prior to freezing. This allows for the identification of embryos with chromosomal abnormalities and the selection of the healthiest embryos to freeze.
- Unlike eggs that may or may not fertilize and mature into embryos, if you elect to freeze embryos, you will know exactly how many embryos you have before freezing.
Cons of Freezing Embryos
- As with egg freezing, there is a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome associated with the egg retrieval process.
- Embryo freezing is more expensive overall than egg freezing.
- Unlike egg freezing, embryo freezing requires sperm from a partner or donor.
- Ownership of embryos may be debated, e.g., when two partners who have contributed the eggs and sperm split up.
- Some people may have ethical concerns about fertilizing multiple embryos and discarding some.
- A recent study links frozen embryos to an increased risk of hypertensive disorders (e.g., preeclampsia) in pregnancy.
Is it Better to Freeze Eggs or Embryos?
Whether it’s better to freeze eggs or embryos is entirely dependent on your needs and desires on your fertility journey. Both have major benefits and some downsides as well.
If you’re a young woman waiting for a partner to begin a family, it might make sense to freeze your eggs if you know you’ll want your child to be genetically related to your partner.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to go through IVF very soon, it may make sense to freeze embryos.
Note that you don’t have to choose one or the other. Freezing both eggs and embryos is an option.
Your fertility specialist can help you (and your partner if you have one) to choose what’s right for you. Don’t hesitate to ask all the questions you want answers to. It’s a big decision that you’ll want to feel comfortable making.
How to Get Started in the Egg or Embryo Freezing Process
Speak with your doctor about your fertility struggles, if you’ve had any, and define your goals and desired timeline for conceiving a child. Your doctor can take that information and inform you of your options and the associated costs.Once you’ve made the choice about whether to freeze your eggs or embryos, a Sunfish financial advocate can offer you support to create a manageable financial plan to cover the expenses. It’s our mission to help all those who desire parenthood achieve it. Take your first steps with Sunfish.