Social Egg Freezing
Egg freezing at a glance
- Social egg freezing is a procedure where a woman decides for nonmedical reasons to freeze and store her eggs for a future pregnancy attempt.
- Aside from social reasons, women may elect to freeze their eggs, also called oocyte cryopreservation, to preserve future fertility due to age, upcoming cancer treatments or other medical conditions that may harm fertility.
- Eggs can be cryopreserved indefinitely or thawed, fertilized with sperm in a lab and implanted via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
- Egg freezing risks, though uncommon, include complications associated with surgery and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
Considering freezing your eggs until you are ready to have a baby? Contact us for a consultation about your options.
What is social or elective egg freezing?
Social or elective egg freezing (also called oocyte cryopreservation) is a procedure where a woman elects for nonmedical reasons to have her eggs (oocytes) frozen and stored as a means to preserve her reproductive potential. Once a woman is ready to get pregnant, the cryopreserved eggs are thawed, fertilized with sperm through IVF and transferred to the woman’s uterus. It is believed that cryopreservation can preserve a woman’s eggs indefinitely.
Who should consider egg freezing?
Egg freezing can be used as part of infertility treatments or to preserve a woman’s eggs before fertility-harming medical treatments. In particular, women having a surgery that requires the removal of their ovaries, undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatments, or taking other medications that could affect their fertility may consider freezing their eggs.
Women can also choose to freeze their eggs because they want to extend their future fertility for social reasons. For instance, many women freeze their eggs because they want to wait to have children until they find the right partner or until they accomplish a particular career goal.
Egg freezing can also be a good fertility preservation option for any woman who wants to have children in her late 30s or 40s. This is because after the age of 35, the quality of a woman’s eggs starts to rapidly decline. While 60 percent or more of a woman’s eggs may be healthy when she is 35, by age 42, a woman will typically have less than 20 percent healthy eggs. The number of eggs a woman has also naturally decreases as a she ages.
This drop in egg quality and quantity makes it much more difficult for a woman to get pregnant when she is in her late 30s and 40s. In fact, many fertility specialists recommend that women over the age of 42 use donor eggs when trying to get pregnant, since their chances of getting pregnant are low using her own eggs.
However, women who freeze their eggs while the eggs are healthy and plentiful may be able to use the preserved eggs to have biological children even after their egg quality declines.
How does the egg freezing process work?
The egg freezing process involves five steps: evaluation of ovarian reserve, ovulation induction, the egg retrieval procedure, egg freezing and long-term storage of the eggs.
In the first step of the egg freezing process, a fertility specialist will test a woman’s ovarian reserve, which will help the doctor determine the number of potentially healthy eggs available for freezing. If a woman’s ovarian reserve is too low, she may not be a good candidate for egg freezing. Low ovarian reserve typically occurs when a woman is nearing menopause, but some women experience it prematurely due to medical treatments, injury or, most commonly, for unknown reasons. If reserve is low, outcomes from egg freezing may be limited.
After ovarian reserve testing, a woman starts the next stage of the egg freezing process: ovulation induction, or stimulation. This involves taking ovulation induction medication by daily injections for 10 to 12 days to stimulate the ovaries and increase the number of mature eggs produced. Most women do these injections themselves after receiving training from a nurse or a Servy Massey Fertility Institute staff member.
Once the eggs are fully mature, a fertility specialist collects them from the woman who is under anesthesia in a minimally invasive surgical procedure called an egg retrieval. During an egg retrieval, the doctor uses ultrasound to guide a needle connected to a suction device through the vagina and into the ovaries. From there, the doctor can collect the eggs and place them into test tubes for transfer to a lab.
After the egg retrieval the collected eggs are sent to a laboratory for vitrification, a flash-freezing process. About 80 to 90 percent of collected eggs are generally healthy enough to be frozen. The frozen eggs are then moved to an egg bank for long-term storage.
Because women are placed under anesthesia for the egg retrieval, they should plan to take the full day off of work and have someone pick them up after the procedure. Preparation for the procedure may take one to two hours, but the actual egg retrieval typically takes less than 20 minutes.
Egg freezing success rates
Egg freezing is not a guarantee that a woman will be able to get pregnant in the future. Sometimes, even if eggs are healthy, a woman may not be able to get pregnant for other reasons or may miscarry. The number of eggs frozen is predictive of success.
While pregnancy success rates using cryopreserved eggs vary from person to person, a counseling tool developed by researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital predicts that women who freeze 10 to 20 eggs before the age of 35 have a 70 to 90 percent chance of having a baby using those eggs at a later date.
How much does egg freezing cost?
There are several costs associated with egg freezing. First, a woman must pay for the ovulation induction medications and the expenses associated with the egg retrieval procedure and cryopreservation process. Once the eggs are frozen, a woman will also have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to have her eggs stored at an egg bank.
Some insurance plans help cover the cost of egg freezing. In particular, insurance generally covers the consultation and diagnostic parts of the process.
At Servy Massey Fertility Institute, our goal is to make egg freezing more accessible. While some clinics charge over $10,000 for egg cryopreservation, we charge $7,075 for the egg freezing process and $910 for the first six months of egg storage.
Risks of egg freezing
The recovery time for an egg retrieval procedure is typically very short. In most cases, women will go home in about an hour and return to normal activities the next day.
After an egg retrieval procedure, women may experience abdominal discomfort and soreness for several days. These symptoms typically go away on their own.
In rare cases women may experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) a few days after an egg retrieval procedure. This is when the ovaries become swollen and painful from the ovulation induction medication. Symptoms of OHSS include weight gain, nausea, vomiting and bloating. Most cases of OHSS do not require medication or treatment, but severe cases (about 1-2 percent of all cases) may require hospitalization.
The egg retrieval procedure also carries risks similar to those of other surgical procedures. These include infection, damage to nearby organs and bleeding.
Current research indicates that egg freezing poses no risks to future offspring and does not damage a woman’s eggs.
Benefits of freezing eggs with Servy Massey Fertility Institute
Servy Massey Fertility Institute has a highly experienced fertility lab staff that has extensive experience performing vitrification processes. Our lab specialists have also received extensive training on the most up-to-date egg cryopreservation techniques from egg freezing specialists to guarantee that our patients receive the best possible results.