Egg freezing Questions
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is the process of preserving some of your eggs by retrieving them from your ovaries, freezing them, and storing them so you can use them to get pregnant later on
Why would I consider preserving my eggs?
The short answer? To preserve your options. You might not be ready for babies right now (because of your relationships, health, career, finances, or any other reason), but know you want kids later. Or that you might want kids later. Or you really have no idea whatsoever, but you want to keep that option open. Freezing your eggs can give you more choices in the future.
How does egg freezing address the business of aging?
Once eggs are removed from your body and frozen according to precise protocols in a specialized lab, they can no longer age. Your healthy, high-quality eggs, once frozen, remain healthy and high quality, so you can use them to get pregnant later in life—when it might otherwise be hard to find healthy eggs.
What can I expect during the egg freezing process?
Egg freezing typically entails 8–11 days of hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs in one menstrual cycle, instead of the single egg they would typically produce. During this period, you’ll have 5–7 short “monitoring” visits where we’ll assess your progress and possibly make adjustments to your medication or schedule.
Finally, there’s a 15-minute surgical procedure performed under mild anesthesia to retrieve the eggs from your ovaries. This whole process, from the beginning of the injections through to the retrieval, is called a “cycle.
How long does the egg freezing process take?
The egg freezing process begins with a fertility assessment and doctor consultation. Once you decide to freeze your eggs, you’ll have an appointment to ensure you know how to administer your medication and that you understand the process and your cycle schedule. How long these first few steps take is up to you—some women come in for an initial appointment and freeze their eggs with their next period, while some take more time to consider their plans and their options. Then, the egg freezing cycle itself takes about 14 days.
How are the eggs frozen?
Here at Extend Fertility, we use the Cryotec method of vitrification—it’s the cornerstone of our lab. Vitrification is a “flash freezing” method that cools cells so quickly to a temperature of -196º Celsius that they become “glass-like,” or “vitrified.”
Vitrification reduces the likelihood that the fluid in the egg will form ice crystals, which could damage it. The Cryotec method is an even more successful form of vitrification, consisting of a specific set of strict protocols for egg cryopreservation. These protocols increase the egg survival rate to over 90%.
Is the egg freezing procedure painful?
Certain parts of it can be, depending on how sensitive you are. Injecting your medication is generally more of a pain than it is painful. The needles are very thin and you inject them into the fatty tissue around your belly. Some women feel bloated and crampy while taking this medication, because it has their ovaries working overtime. The transvaginal ultrasound exams used during egg freezing aren’t painful, but they can be a bit uncomfortable because, well, they’re transvaginal ultrasound exams.
During the egg retrieval, you’ll be under twilight anesthesia and won’t feel a thing. You may experience some pain when you wake up, like a little soreness in the vaginal area and/or some abdominal cramping, similar to how you might feel when you’re getting your period
How long can the eggs stay frozen?
The eggs can stay frozen for the necessary period of time without any effect on their quality. As per ART guidelines, frozen eggs should be discorded after 10 years.
In order to use these eggs, they must be thawed in the laboratory for fertilisation with sperm from the partner or a donor. The collected embryos are maintained in culture to be transferred 5 days later. The embryos that have not been transferred will be frozen.
The woman will have to prepare her endometrium with oestrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy in order to receive the embryos.
How long does it take to recover from the egg retrieval?
We recommend you take the day off from work on the day of your retrieval, so you can rest for the remainder of the day after the procedure. The vaginal soreness and cramping can last for a few days. But usually, that’s it.
When will my period return after an egg retrieval?
A woman with a regular period can expect to get her next period at the same time she would have during a normal cycle, 28–30 days after her previous period began.
How many eggs should I aim to freeze?
That depends on several factors, the most important one being age. That’s because your age at the time of freezing is the best way to predict how many of your eggs will be genetically normal. While there isn’t a specific “magic number” that will guarantee a pregnancy later on, women 34 or younger can feel confident that freezing 10 eggs will give them a high potential for creating at least one child if used later on. For women 35–38 years old, about 15 eggs is optimal; for women 38 and older, the data are more limited and less clear; a cautious approach would be to aim for freezing 20 eggs or more.
Am I likely to need more than one egg freezing cycle to preserve enough eggs?
It depends. In general, when you are younger, you are more likely to freeze a higher number of eggs in one cycle. Younger women also produce a higher percentage of genetically healthy eggs, so they need to freeze fewer to begin with. Many younger women will reach their egg freezing target in just one attempt, while older women are likely to need to complete multiple egg freezing cycles to reach their goal. As part of your consultation with our doctors, we’ll let you know how many eggs we think you’ll be able to freeze in one cycle.
Can I do multiple egg freezing cycles back to back?
Yes, you can start a new cycle right after completing a prior cycle, so long as your baseline testing is normal. Some women choose to take a month or multiple months “off” between cycles for personal reasons, but it’s not required.
How will I use my frozen eggs when I am ready to get pregnant?
If you want to use your frozen eggs, they’ll be thawed and fertilised with partner or donor sperm using in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
What is the success rate for frozen eggs?
Your age at the time you freeze your eggs and how many eggs you freeze are the two most important factors affecting your chance of having a baby with frozen eggs. According to a recent study of over 500 cycles of in vitro fertilisation in fertile women performed at Brigham & Women’s Hospital:
- If you’re under 35 and you freeze 10 eggs, your chances of at least one live birth using those eggs later are about 60–70%. If you freeze 20 eggs, you have about a 90% chance of those eggs resulting in at least one live birth later on.
- If you’re 37, your chances for at least one live birth later are about 50% with 10 frozen eggs and 75% with 20 frozen eggs.
- If you’re 40, your chances for at least one live birth later are about 30% with 10 frozen eggs and 50% with 20 frozen eggs.
It’s important to understand that there have been a limited number of studies looking at the success rate of using frozen eggs. This is because the use of vitrification for elective egg freezing is relatively new, and because when women freeze their eggs to preserve their fertility, they typically wait several years before using them. As a result, there are not yet many high-quality studies reporting large-scale results. However, the results of IVF and egg donor cycles give us a good foundation for understanding the potential for success with frozen eggs.
How do I know if I’m a good candidate for egg freezing?
In general, any healthy woman who currently has at least some healthy eggs and is not yet ready to have a baby is a good candidate for egg freezing. As an initial step in the egg freezing process you’ll have a fertility assessment to gather information about your fertility and your overall health. Then, in a consultation, one of our physicians will review how effective egg freezing might be for you.Open/Close Accordion
At what age should I consider freezing my eggs?
The younger you are, the more effective egg freezing will be for you. You’ll be able to freeze the highest number of healthy eggs before you turn 30, slightly fewer from 30–35, and then a much smaller yield over 35. The “sweet spot” for egg freezing is ages 27–34.
In your mid-to-late 30s or early 40s, you can at least partially compensate for low egg quality by freezing more eggs to increase your odds. This usually requires multiple egg freezing cycles, but it can give you a better chance of eventually achieving a healthy pregnancy.
I have a low AMH level. Can I still freeze my eggs?
Yes. Women with low AMH levels are still candidates for egg freezing, but they may need multiple egg freezing cycles to reach their goal.
Do I need to take birth control pills as part of an egg freezing cycle?
No, not at Extend Fertility. Some clinics require women to use OCPs prior to their in vitro fertilisation or egg freezing cycle because OCPs allow doctors, or the patients themselves, to manipulate the timing of their cycle for easier scheduling. However, studies have concluded that OCP use directly prior to a “stimulation” cycle (such as egg freezing) can result in a longer egg freezing cycle that requires more medication—and can lower the number of eggs that are eventually retrieved. So, we don’t prescribe birth control pills routinely as part of the egg freezing process.
If I’m already on birth control, do I need to stop taking it in order to freeze my eggs?
Yes, you will need to stop taking hormonal birth control during the 8–14 days of your egg freezing cycle, but it can be resumed with the period following your egg retrieval. The medications used during your egg freezing cycle prompt your ovaries to produce multiple eggs during one menstrual cycle, instead of the one egg typically matured and ovulated. Hormonal birth control, on the other hand, is intended to prevent ovulation, so you wouldn’t want to take it during your egg freezing cycle.
Do I need to remove my IUD in order to freeze my eggs?
No! Because IUDs don’t prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, they can stay in place throughout the egg freezing process. And because the egg retrieval is performed via a needle that goes through the wall of the vagina, there’s no chance of the IUD getting in the way.
Is egg freezing different from in vitro fertilisation (IVF)?
Yes. While both processes use the same medications to prompt the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, the goal is different. During in vitro fertilisation, eggs are fertilised in a lab to create embryos, either to transfer immediately as an infertility treatment or to freeze for later use. With egg freezing, you’re done after the egg retrieval—there’s no creation of an embryo, because the goal is simply to preserve your unfertilised eggs for the future.
Is egg freezing different from egg donation?
Yes. When a woman freezes her eggs, she’s giving herself the option to get pregnant with her own eggs later in life. During egg donation, on the other hand, a young woman’s eggs are retrieved and either frozen or fertilized in order to be used for pregnancy by a different woman or couple. Here at Extend Fertility, we offer egg freezing, not egg donation.
What happens to my eggs if I don’t use them?
Some women who freeze their eggs go on to find a partner and get pregnant the old-fashioned way. (For them, their banked eggs may give them a chance at having a second or third child, if they choose!) And some women decide not to use their eggs at all. In that case, they may be able to donate them to a specific person for reproductive purposes or have their eggs appropriately discarded.
If I don’t use my eggs, can I donate them?
You have the option to donate your unused eggs to someone you know, but you’ll need to decide if you want that option before you start your egg freezing cycle. That’s because egg donors must undergo a series of FDA and genetic tests, including infectious disease screening and a full physical, before they are cleared for donation. There is an additional cost associated with these tests. If you’d like the option to donate your eggs to someone you know in the future, talk to your fertility advisor, who can set up this testing for you. Extend Fertility does not currently offer the option of anonymous egg donation.