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Can I freeze eggs?

Yes, it is possible to freeze eggs for later use. Freezing eggs, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is a method used to preserve a woman’s fertility. It involves extracting a woman’s eggs, freezing them, and storing them for future use. When a woman is ready to become pregnant, the frozen eggs can be thawed, fertilized, and transferred back into the woman’s uterus as embryos.

Freezing eggs offers women more flexibility with their reproductive choices. The most common reasons women freeze their eggs are:

  • To preserve fertility for women who need to delay childbearing. Examples include women focused on education or career advancement, or who have not found the right partner.
  • To preserve fertility in women facing medical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation that may damage the ovaries.
  • To help women have children later in life as fertility declines with age.

Freezing eggs allows women to essentially “pause” their biological clock. However, it does not guarantee a future pregnancy. The chance of getting pregnant in the future depends on the woman’s age when the eggs were frozen and the number/quality of frozen eggs. Overall, freezing eggs at a younger age leads to better outcomes.

What are the requirements for freezing eggs?

Freezing eggs is a multi-step medical process that requires:

  • Fertility testing and ovarian reserve screening
  • Taking injectable fertility drugs to stimulate egg production
  • Retrieving eggs during an egg retrieval procedure
  • Freezing eggs using special techniques (vitrification)
  • Storing frozen eggs in a specialized facility

The first step is fertility testing to evaluate ovarian reserve and make sure a woman is a good candidate for egg freezing. Blood tests for hormones like AMH and antral follicle count on ultrasound help assess fertility potential.

Next, injectable fertility medications like FSH are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs in one cycle. During egg retrieval, the eggs are collected via a minor surgical procedure. Techniques like vitrification (ultra-rapid freezing) are used to freeze eggs without damaging them.

Finally, the frozen eggs are stored long-term in liquid nitrogen at specialized facilities until ready for use. Proper storage is crucial for egg viability.

Fertility testing

Women considering egg freezing should have a fertility workup done first. This includes:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • Blood tests to measure ovarian reserve hormones like AMH, FSH, estradiol
  • Antral follicle count (AFC) via vaginal ultrasound

Fertility testing gives information about a woman’s ovarian reserve and current fertility levels. It helps determine if she’s a good candidate for egg freezing and estimate the potential number of eggs that can be frozen. Women with normal to high ovarian reserve get the best results.

Ovarian stimulation and monitoring

The next step involves taking injectable gonadotropins like FSH or HMG to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs in one cycle. Ultrasounds and bloodwork are done during the stimulation phase to monitor progress.

When several follicles reach 18-20mm, ovulation is triggered with hCG. Egg retrieval is scheduled 34-36 hours later. Around 10-15 eggs are usually retrieved in average responders.

Egg retrieval procedure

A minor outpatient surgical procedure is done under anesthesia to retrieve the eggs. An ultrasound guided needle is inserted through the vaginal wall to collect eggs from the ovarian follicles. Potential risks include bleeding, infection, damage to surrounding organs, or complications from anesthesia.

How are eggs frozen?

Special techniques called vitrification are used to freeze eggs quickly without ice crystal formation. This prevents damage to egg cell structures. Eggs are treated with cryoprotectants then plunged into liquid nitrogen at -196°C. Vitrification improves egg survival and pregnancy rates compared to older slow-freeze methods.

Frozen egg storage

Frozen eggs must be stored long-term in liquid nitrogen tanks at specialized storage facilities. Continuous monitoring and backup systems are needed to maintain optimal temperature ranges between -185° to -196°C. Proper storage is essential for preserving egg quality and viability over time. Long term storage fees apply.

What affects success rates with frozen eggs?

Success rates with frozen eggs depend on several factors:

  • The woman’s age when eggs were frozen
  • Egg quality and quantity frozen
  • Proper freezing and storage techniques
  • The length of time eggs were frozen

Age is the most important factor. Younger women have healthier eggs and higher pregnancy rates. According to SART national data for 2019:

  • Live birth rates per embryo transfer with frozen eggs were:
  • 41.5% for women under 35
  • 31.1% for women age 35-37
  • 21.6% for women age 38-40
  • 12.9% for women over 40

In general, freezing 15-25 eggs at a younger age provides a reasonable chance for at least one baby in the future.

Egg quantity and quality

Women with higher ovarian reserve produce more eggs during stimulation cycles. More eggs frozen means more chances for success after thawing and fertilization. Egg quality also declines with age, so younger eggs have higher viability.

Proper techniques

Using optimal freezing (vitrification) and consistent storage methods maximizes egg survival rates during freezing and thawing. Strict temperature monitoring and tank maintenance preserves long-term egg integrity.

Length of storage

Current data has shown frozen eggs remain stable for many years if stored properly in liquid nitrogen. Success rates do not seem to significantly decline with length of storage up to 10 years based on limited data. More research is still needed on the optimal frozen egg storage timeline.

What are the success rates with frozen eggs?

According to the latest SART national summary report using 2019 data:

  • For women under 35, the live birth rate per egg thaw cycle was 53.7%
  • For women age 35-37, the live birth rate per egg thaw cycle was 42.9%
  • For women age 38-40, the live birth rate per egg thaw cycle was 31.8%
  • For women over 40, the live birth rate per egg thaw cycle was 18.9%

These rates vary by clinic and patient-specific factors like egg quantity/quality. Most data shows frozen eggs have around a 2/3 survival rate after thawing. Overall, pregnancy success is lower with frozen eggs compared to frozen embryos created via IVF using the same fresh eggs.

Cumulative success rates

Since there is variability in the number of eggs a woman freezes and how many attempts it takes to achieve a live birth, many clinics report cumulative success rates.

This reflects the total live birth rate for a full course of treatment using all frozen eggs from an individual woman. According to SART national data for women under 35:

  • The cumulative live birth rate was 85% using up to 3 egg thaw cycles
  • The cumulative live birth rate was 93% using up to 5 egg thaw cycles

What are the costs of freezing eggs?

Egg freezing involves significant financial costs over several steps:

Fertility testing

Initial consult, bloodwork and ultrasounds often cost around $1000 without insurance coverage.

Medications for egg retrieval cycle

Medications for one egg stimulation cycle average $3000-$5000 out of pocket.

Egg retrieval procedure

The surgical egg retrieval procedure costs $3000-$7000 on average if not covered by insurance.

Egg freezing and storage fees

Freezing and initial storage fees are around $1000-$2000 per egg retrieval cycle.

Long term egg storage

Ongoing annual storage costs around $500 per year. Over 10-20 years, total storage fees can add up to $5000-$10,000.

Future egg thawing/IVF

When ready for pregnancy, each subsequent frozen egg thaw cycle with fertilization and transfer adds roughly $5000-$15,000 per try. On average, most women use 2-3 rounds of frozen eggs to achieve a live birth.

So in total, the complete process of freezing eggs and using them years later for pregnancy often costs $20,000-$50,000. Insurance coverage varies, so check on what your insurance plan includes for fertility benefits.

Egg freezing step Estimated cost range
Fertility testing $1000
Medications per cycle $3000-$5000
Egg retrieval procedure $3000-$7000
Egg freezing $1000-$2000
Annual storage fees $500
Each future egg thaw cycle $5000-$15,000
Total estimated cost $20,000-$50,000

What are the downsides to freezing eggs?

While egg freezing expands family planning options, there are some downsides to consider:

  • No guarantee of future pregnancy success
  • Requires fertility drugs and surgical egg retrieval
  • Not all eggs survive freeze/thaw process
  • Pregnancy rates lower than with frozen embryos
  • Risk of no viable eggs left if delayed too long
  • Significant costs often not covered fully by insurance

Make sure to consult with a fertility specialist about realistic expectations. Freezing eggs younger offers the highest odds for an eventual healthy pregnancy. But outcomes cannot be guaranteed.

Some women produce low numbers or poor quality eggs even at a young age, lowering success rates. And waiting until too late lowers quantity and quality further.

No guarantees with frozen eggs

Unlike freezing embryos, there are more uncertainties involved when freezing eggs alone. Until eggs are thawed and fertilized, it is impossible to know if they survived the freeze/thaw process and can create viable embryos. So there is always a risk of no pregnancy after investing significant time, emotion, and money into freezing eggs.

Potential risks involved

Egg freezing requires taking fertility drugs and going through minor surgery for egg retrieval. Short term risks include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, bleeding/infection, and anesthesia complications. Long term data on egg freezing safety is limited since it’s a relatively new technology.

Insurance coverage limitations

Insurance coverage for egg freezing is variable. While costs are decreasing, paying entirely out of pocket can be a huge financial burden, especially for younger women with limited incomes. Some companies offer egg freezing benefits to employees, but this is not yet common. Government insurance programs like Medicaid typically do not cover IVF or egg freezing.

Who is a good candidate for egg freezing?

In general, a woman is a good candidate for egg freezing if she:

  • Is under 35 years old
  • Has no known fertility problems
  • Has adequate ovarian reserve based on testing
  • Is ready and willing to undergo the process
  • Can afford the costs involved or has insurance coverage

Younger age, at least early 20s to early 30s, offers the best odds. This allows time to freeze a reasonable number of high quality eggs when fertility potential is highest. While some women freeze eggs into their late 30s, the success rates are lower.

Good ovarian reserve means higher egg quantity and quality. Checking AMH, FSH, AFC and having normal cycles sets reasonable expectations.

A woman must fully understand the process, risks, costs, and realistic chances for success. Counseling helps ensure egg freezing aligns with personal goals and values.

Common reasons for freezing eggs

Some common reasons women freeze their eggs include:

  • No partner yet and concerned about fertility decline
  • Egg freezing benefits offered by employer
  • Fertility preservation for cancer treatment
  • Known issues like endometriosis or PCOS
  • Genetic diseases they don’t want to pass on

Having a clear purpose helps motivate women through the process to maximize their chances of success.


In summary, egg freezing technology allows women more flexibility in family planning. It can help defer motherhood more safely compared to waiting with unprotected intercourse. However, there are no guarantees of future success.

To maximize outcomes, freezing eggs at the youngest age possible is ideal when fertility potential is highest. 15-25 eggs frozen before age 35 provides reasonable odds for at least one child later on.

Egg freezing involves short term risks and significant costs over many years. Thorough counseling helps women have appropriate expectations. Overall, frozen eggs widen a woman’s reproductive choices and timeline if done carefully under optimal conditions. But it should not provide false hope either.