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Egg Freezing — A Guide for Women Who Want to Get Pregnant
Updated on October 3, 2022
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Egg Freezing — A Guide for Women Who Want to Get Pregnant
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More and more women are giving thought to choices that can greatly impact their lives. One of which is pregnancy.

The practice of egg freezing or mature oocyte cryopreservation is becoming popular among women. It allows you to delay pregnancy and conceive later in life.

It’s a good option for women with an illness or who are receiving treatments that affect fertility. Women who aren’t ready to have a child may also want to consider it.

We asked Dr. Rizza Mira on everything there is to know about egg freezing. She's a licensed medical doctor and our resident medical reviewer at KnowYourDNA.

Egg Freezing — A Guide for Women Who Want to Get Pregnant 2

What is Egg Freezing?

Egg freezing preserves female fertility. It gives you the chance to try pregnancy at a later age.

In this process, a fertility specialist collects eggs from your ovaries. They will be frozen and stored for fertilization.1

Eggs may be frozen unfertilized or fertilized by sperm.

Fertilized vs. Unfertilized Egg Freezing

Fertilized egg freezing (also known as embryo freezing or embryo cryopreservation) is a procedure where the eggs are fertilized with sperm before they are frozen.

The doctor combines the eggs from your ovaries with sperm to form embryos. Once they are successfully fertilized, the eggs are frozen.

Dr. Mira explains this process usually takes 3 to 5 days before the doctor decides if the embryo is viable or healthy enough to be transferred to the uterus for conception.

They’ll thaw the frozen embryo and place it in your uterus later during in vitro fertilization (IVF).2 

Unlike embryo freezing, unfertilized egg freezing doesn't require sperm or fertilization. Mature eggs are taken directly from the ovaries. 

In both fertilized and unfertilized egg freezing, you may need fertility drugs to produce multiple eggs for harvesting.

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Why Women Freeze Their Eggs

Healthy adult women can produce about 300,000 eggs. They ovulate 300 to 400 times on average throughout their reproductive years.

The quality of a woman’s eggs naturally declines as she ages. Her fertility diminishes along with the decreasing number of eggs.

In turn, this decreases your chances of a successful pregnancy when you’re older.

Egg freezing is a way to preserve your eggs and fertility. It may allow you to become pregnant even when you stop producing viable eggs, such as after menopause.

You can do it for medical reasons (medical egg freezing) or to avoid age-related infertility (social egg freezing).

Below are common reasons why women choose to freeze their eggs.

1. You Have A Condition That Affects Your Fertility

Women may suffer from certain illnesses that make pregnancy difficult. Health conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid problems can affect your fertility.3

Egg freezing helps you preserve fertility until your condition improves.

2. You Are Undergoing Certain Treatments

There are also treatments that can affect your fertility. Examples are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.4

These treatments can cause your ovaries to stop releasing eggs. Others may affect glands that control your fertility hormones.

If this is the case, you can also freeze eggs as a part of an IVF treatment.

3. You Want to Get Pregnant Later

Women who want to get pregnant at an older age may opt for egg freezing. It’s also a great way to plan your pregnancy.

Whether you’re a first-time parent or someone who already has a child, the procedure can help you conceive once you're ready — even when you've undergone menopause. 

4. You Are Planning to Undergo Gender Transition

Egg freezing offers hope to transgender people who want to have biological children. This includes transgenders who are transitioning from female to male (FTM).

However, they may want to freeze eggs before receiving FTM hormone therapy. The treatment may cause fertility issues.

How Does Egg Freezing Work?

When you're ready to conceive, you can use your frozen eggs and have them fertilized in a laboratory through IVF. 

The sperm that fertilizes the eggs can come from your partner or a sperm donor. 

You may also get an anonymous donor from sperm banks. Or you can choose someone you know personally — whichever you're comfortable with.

Once fertilized, the doctors can implant the egg in your uterus. They can also place it in another woman's uterus if you plan to have someone carry the pregnancy on your behalf (surrogacy).

What to Expect From Egg Freezing

There are 3 steps in the egg freezing cycle:

Step 1 — Ovarian Stimulation

During this phase, your doctor gives you synthetic hormones. Some examples are Follitropin alfa and beta (Follistim AQ, Gonal-f) and menotropins (Menopur).

These hormones stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Normally, they only release a single egg each month. 

Your doctor may also prescribe hormones that prevent premature ovulation and help eggs rapidly develop.

Blood tests are necessary. It enables your doctor to monitor how you respond to treatments. They will check your estrogen and progesterone levels to mark your ovulation period. 

Your doctor may also perform a vaginal ultrasound. It will help them monitor the fluid-filled sacs where eggs mature (follicles).

"These blood tests and pelvic ultrasound are important guides for your doctor. It can help them determine the amount of medication (dose) you need for hormonal therapy," says Dr. Mira.

She explains this is done to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Step 2 — Egg Retrieval Procedure

After 10 to 14 days of ovarian stimulation, the follicles are usually ready for the next step — egg retrieval. This is usually performed using transvaginal ultrasound aspiration

In this procedure, an ultrasound probe is slipped into your vagina to get images of your follicles. 

Next, the doctor inserts a needle into your vagina. Ultrasound imaging will help guide it towards a follicle. 

The needle has a suction device to retrieve eggs from the follicle. It can remove up to 15 fresh eggs. Your chances of conceiving are affected by the amount of successfully retrieved eggs.

Step 3 — Freezing Eggs

Once your unfertilized eggs are harvested, they’re frozen in subzero temperatures for preservation. It’s usually done through vitrification.

Vitrification is a technique that combines rapid cooling with a high concentration of cryoprotectants. The substance prevents ice crystal formation on biological tissues.

Step 4 — After the Egg Freezing Process

After the egg retrieval, you might feel cramps in your abdomen. Feelings of bloating and uneasiness usually continue for weeks.

You can resume daily activities in a week so long as you feel comfortable moving around. 

However, let your doctor know if you experience any of the following:

  • A fever higher than 101.5 F (38.6 C)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Weight gain of more than 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) in 24 hours
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (e.g., filling more than 2 pads in an hour)
  • Difficulty urinating

Egg Freezing Success Rates

The success rate of eggs surviving the freezing process can vary.

About 90 to 97% of frozen eggs survive egg thawing. The chances they will get fertilized after and help with a future pregnancy are 71% to 79%.

Doctors successfully implant 17% to 41% of frozen eggs in women. But only 4.5% to 12% of them got pregnant through egg freezing. 

Having more frozen eggs increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. But Dr. Mira cites other factors.

"The mother's age during egg harvest and pregnancy, existing medical conditions, and her psychological state all have an effect on the success of treatment," says Dr. Mira.

How Much Does Egg Freezing Cost

The price of egg freezing is usually calculated per cycle. Each cycle lasts 4 to 6 weeks and costs between $6,000 to $20,000

The actual cost of egg freezing will depend on your location and chosen facility. Each cycle can yield an average of 10 eggs.

However, not all of them may be good enough for freezing. So you may need several cycles to get more viable eggs. 

If you undergo at least 2 cycles, the total cost of egg freezing would be $12,000 to $40,000. The storage of frozen eggs will cost an additional $500 to $2,000 yearly.

When Should You Freeze Your Eggs?

The number of eggs in the ovaries (ovarian reserve) is higher in younger women. Eggs that are retrieved earlier also tend to be healthier.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the optimal age for fertility preservation is when you’re between 20 and 30 years old.

A better quality of eggs ensures a higher chance of getting pregnant.

Ovarian Reserve Testing

Before freezing your eggs, the doctor might ask you to undergo ovarian reserve testing (ORT). An at-home ovarian reserve test can help you:

  • Find out if you have more or fewer eggs for your age
  • Estimate the health of your ovaries
  • Predict how you respond to treatment
  • Assess if you’re a good candidate for egg freezing

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Resources

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  1. Egg Freezing.” University of California Los Angeles Health.
  2. Egg freezing.” Mayo Clinic.
  3. What are some possible causes of female infertility?” National Institutes of Health.
  4. Fertility Issues in Girls and Women with Cancer.” National Cancer Institute.
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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