To date, there are thousands of published pregnancies using cryopreserved and subsequently thawed eggs. Therefore, data relating to clinical outcomes are limited, but suggest an approximate 4% average live-birth rate/egg thawed. While it is likely that these rates will continue to improve, egg freezing is successful enough at present that;
- Donor egg banks are now a reality. Similar to large sperm banks, the advantage to patient recipients is a much larger selection of potential donors then would otherwise be possible. The eggs are also immediately available.
- It is now an option for women diagnosed with cancer. Freezing embryos remains the most successful approach, but if not possible, egg freezing offers a chance to preserve eggs prior to chemotherapy, surgery or radiation. Most of these treatments destroy the eggs and lead to infertility. In some cases, viable eggs may be present after cancer treatment. Fertility preserving options vary depending on age, type of cancer, and cancer treatment plan.
- It is now an option for women with a family history of early menopause. Some forms of early menopause (premature ovarian failure) are genetically linked. Egg freezing offers a chance to preserve eggs before they are all depleted.
- It is now an option for women who want or need to delay childbearing in order to pursue educational, career or other personal goals. Because fertility is scientifically proven to be age-dependent, freezing your eggs at an early reproductive age may improve your chance for a future pregnancy. Age does not have a measurable impact on the uterus.
How does egg freezing work?
Although sperm and embryos have proved easy to freeze, the egg is the largest cell in the human body and contains a large amount of water. When frozen, ice crystals form that can destroy the cell. Over the years we have learned that we must dehydrate the egg and replace the water with an “anti-freeze” prior to freezing in order to prevent ice crystal formation. We also learned that because the shell of the egg hardens when frozen, sperm must be injected with a needle to fertilize the egg using a standard technique known as ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).
What is involved in egg freezing?
In order to retrieve eggs for freezing, a patient undergoes the same hormone-injection process as in-vitro fertilization. The only difference is that following egg retrieval, they are frozen for a period of time before they are thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
It takes approximately 4-6 weeks to complete the egg freezing cycle and is consistent with the initial stages of the IVF process including:
- Down regulation of the ovaries with birth control pills, sometimes in combination with Lupron or Ganirelix.
- 9-12 days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple eggs
Once the eggs have adequately matured, they are removed with a needle placed through the vagina under ultrasound guidance. This procedure is done under anesthesia and is not painful. Then, after careful preparation, the eggs are immediately frozen. When the patient is ready to attempt pregnancy the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
How long can the eggs remain frozen?
- Theoretically, up to several hundred years.
How many eggs should I store to achieve a pregnancy?
- For women under 36, egg thaw rates between 60-90% and fertilization rates of 60-80% have been reported. For a reasonable chance at pregnancy, the goal is 15 eggs/pregnancy attempt. We expect to retrieve 9-15 eggs per IVF stimulation, in most cases. This would be sufficient for 1-1½ pregnancy attempts.
How well does egg freezing work?
- Pregnancy rates of 50-65% have been reported so far. Most of this data has been obtained from screened egg donor cycles.
What if I am over 38 years of age?
- To date, there have been no ongoing pregnancies reported in women over 38 from frozen eggs. This is mostly due to lower age cutoffs in egg freezing studies. Pregnancies are routinely achieved in women up to age 43 using fresh embryos. We may find with further egg freezing research that we are able to mimic these rates; however, we do not know if eggs from women over 38 years of age will respond in the same manner to freezing as those from women 38 years of age or less.
Is egg freezing safe?
- There has been no reported increase in birth defects to date.
What are the costs?
- The costs of egg freezing are identical to those of routine IVF through the retrieval process. Egg storage for the first year would be included; there after it is $720*/year. Please call for current pricing.
Our Billing Manager will be glad to answer your questions regarding costs, payments, insurance coverage and reimbursements.
*all prices quoted are subject to change, please check with our financial counselors for the latest pricing information.