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Everything You Need To Know About Egg Freezing
Updated on January 31, 2024
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Everything You Need To Know About Egg Freezing

Egg freezing allows you to delay pregnancy and conceive later in life.

It's a good option for women struggling to get pregnant due to a health condition or treatments that impair fertility—such as radiation therapy for ovarian cancer.

Healthy young women who just aren’t ready to have a child may also consider freezing eggs.

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

Everything You Need To Know About Egg Freezing 2

What is Egg Freezing?

Egg freezing or mature oocyte cryopreservation is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) that enables you to have a child at a later time.

It involves collecting mature eggs from a woman's ovaries—also known as egg retrieval. The woman’s eggs are immediately frozen and stored for future fertility.1

When you're ready to have a child, a fertility specialist can use the frozen eggs to help you conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF).2

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Who Is Egg Freezing For?

Egg freezing is for women who want to preserve their fertility for whatever reason.

Most women undergo medical egg freezing for health reasons. But you can also opt for social egg freezing to avoid age-related infertility, even if you don't have a health problem.

Below are some scenarios on why you would want to consider it.

1. You Have A Condition That Affects Your Fertility

Health conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid imbalance can affect your fertility and make it difficult to get pregnant.3

Egg freezing helps you preserve your fertility until your medical problems are successfully treated or your health improves to a point where pregnancy is possible.

2. You Are Taking Treatments That Cause Infertility

Treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy can impair fertility and make it difficult or impossible to have a baby. It's because they can:4

  • Cause your ovaries to stop releasing eggs
  • Reduce egg quality and make it less viable for pregnancy
  • Lead to hormonal imbalances that affect ovulation

Women who freeze their eggs before undergoing treatment will be able to preserve fertility. You'll have a supply of eggs that fertility specialists can use to help you conceive.

3. You Want to Plan Your Pregnancy

Egg freezing lets you attempt pregnancy at a later age. It's a great way to plan pregnancy for:

  • First-time parents who aren't ready for the responsibility
  • Women who already have children but no longer want to be pregnant.

Even if you reach menopause, a frozen egg can still be used to conceive a child through surrogacy. It's when another woman (a surrogate) carries the baby to term.

4. You Are Planning to Undergo Gender Transition

People who are transitioning from female to male (FTM) require hormone therapy. This can make you infertile unless you have your eggs frozen before treatment.

Elective egg freezing offers hope to transgender men who want to have biological children after they've transitioned.

How Does Egg Freezing Work?

An egg freezing cycle lasts four to six weeks. Your doctor may recommend doing it more than once if they don't get enough good-quality eggs. Here is how egg freezing works:

Step 1: Ovarian Stimulation

During this phase, your doctor will give you hormones that stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs at a faster rate. Some treatments you may get are:

  • Follitropin alfa (Follistim AQ)
  • Follitropin beta (Gonal-f)
  • Menotropins (Menopur)

Normally, your body produces one mature egg every menstrual cycle. Ovarian stimulation improves your chances of a successful egg retrieval procedure.

Ovarian stimulation typically lasts 10 to 14 days. Doctors will determine your dosage by performing other tests.

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

This is done to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which causes symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Step 2: Egg Retrieval

The doctor will retrieve your eggs using transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. But first, they have to make sure that your follicles have matured.

Once they confirm this with ultrasound imaging, a needle with a suctioning device will be inserted through the vagina to retrieve your eggs.

Step 3: Egg Freezing Process

After harvesting your unfertilized eggs, they are flash-frozen in subzero temperatures with a process known as vitrification.

Vitrification combines rapid cooling with a high concentration of cryoprotectants. This preserves eggs without damaging their cells.

Step 4: Recovery

You might experience some bloating and abdominal cramps weeks following egg retrieval. But you can go back to your daily activities within a week. 

Let your doctor know if you notice these signs:

  • A fever higher than 101.5 F (38.6 C)
  • Severe abdominal pain that doesn't go away
  • Gaining 2 lbs. within 24 hours
  • Heavy bleeding (e.g., filling more than two pads per hour)
  • Difficult and painful urination

When Should You Freeze Eggs?

Younger women usually have a healthier and more significant ovarian reserve. It means they have more eggs that are viable for pregnancy.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends harvesting eggs when you're still 20 to 30 years old.

How Many Frozen Eggs Are Needed?

It depends. Most doctors recommend freezing anywhere between 10 and 20 eggs. A fertility specialist needs to evaluate you before they can determine how many eggs they will freeze. 

They will consider factors such as your current age, how many children you want, and how you respond to ovarian stimulation.

Freezing more fresh eggs improves your chances of a successful pregnancy. So a doctor may try to retrieve up to 30 eggs or more if you:

  • Are an older woman aged 36 to 40
  • Plan to have more than one child in the future
  • Produce less than ten eggs with treatment

Ovarian Reserve Testing

Before freezing your eggs, the doctor might ask you to undergo ovarian reserve testing (ORT). This test is usually performed in a laboratory, but at-home kits are also available.

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

How Effective Is Egg Freezing?

Egg freezing is an effective fertility preservation method. However, one thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't guarantee a pregnancy. Out of all retrieved eggs:

  • 90 to 97 percent survive egg thawing
  • 71 to 79 percent are fertilized
  • 17 to 41 percent are implanted

"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.

Egg Freezing Success Rates By Age

In a study of 543 women aged 27 to 44 who underwent egg freezing, 39 percent went on to have a child.

Researchers found that thawing more eggs also improved a woman's pregnancy outcomes, regardless of her age. After thawing more than 20 mature eggs:5

  • Women of all ages had a 58 percent live birth rate
  • 14 women who froze their eggs at the age of 41 to 43 had a child
  • Younger women below 38 had a 70 percent live birth rate

How Much Does Egg Freezing Cost

The cost of egg freezing is usually calculated per cycle, which can vary based on your location and chosen facility.

One egg freezing cycle usually costs $6,000 to $20,000. Egg storage will also cost you an additional $500 to $2,000 every year.

Each treatment cycle only produces an average of ten eggs. You may need to undergo several treatments—which can double or triple the costs.

Is Egg Freezing vs. Embryo Freezing Better?

It depends on the freezing method used. Both egg and embryo freezing can be equally effective if the eggs and/or embryos are flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Flash freezing prevents ice crystals from forming in the cells and tissues, which can cause damage and make them unusable.

But if a laboratory uses slow freezing as a preservation method, it’s better to freeze embryos because they are less delicate compared to eggs.

Here are the key differences between these two methods:

  • Egg freezing – stores mature eggs that aren't fertilized until they are being prepared for IVF
  • Embryo freezing – eggs are fertilized and given time to form into embryos before they are stored

In both methods, the sperm that fertilizes the eggs can come from a partner, a sperm donor, or an anonymous donor from a sperm bank.

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Updated on January 31, 2024
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4 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  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.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
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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