For many years men have been able to freeze sperm. Recent scientific advances have made it
possible to cryopreserve eggs for women. Now women have the ability to cryopreserve
eggs for the same situations that men have been able to preserve fertility,
before undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer and avoiding the effects of aging on reproductive capacity.
The freezing process called vitrification has allowed egg
freezing to become a reality. Vitrification
involves a rapid freezing process that prevents ice crystals from forming
within vitrified cells including eggs.
Ice crystal damage to the cells that occurred with slow freezing
protocols that were used for decades for embryos and sperm did not work well
for egg freezing. IRH has extensive
experience with the vitrification freezing process over the last few years
while cryopreserving embryos. This
experience has allowed us to have early success with oocyte vitrification.
Egg freeing or cryopreservation was changed from experimental
to non-experimental status by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine
(ASRM) in the fall of 2014. Prior to
that we offered egg freezing under an IRB approved experimental protocol. Since the ASRM change, IRH has been offering
egg freezing to our patients. IRH has
ongoing pregnancies and delivered pregnancies as a result of oocyte
freezing. IRH has helped patients freeze
their eggs to avoid damage from cancer treating chemotherapy and/or radiation
therapy. IRH has patients who have
cryopreserved their eggs for delaying childbearing for social reasons. IRH has cryopreserved donated eggs resulting
in pregnancies. IRH also has pregnancies
from eggs that were cryopreserved as their partner had an unexpected lack of
sperm on the day of retrieval. In this
situation the eggs were cryopreserved and thawed later when sperm was available
and subsequent pregnancies have resulted.
Why would a woman want
to freeze their eggs?
As women get older, they may encounter difficulty getting pregnant
(conceiving) with a healthy baby. Women are born with about 1-2 million eggs.
Most of the eggs die off so that by the time a girl reaches puberty, she is
left with about half a million eggs. As women enter their mid- to late-30s and
40s, the eggs disappear more quickly. Also, the eggs that remain might be less
able to lead to a healthy pregnancy because of the normal age effects on egg
Biologically, it is easier to get pregnant before age 30. However, due
to professional, social, or health reasons, a woman might not be ready to get
pregnant at that time and she might choose to defer having a child until the
time is right for her. Understanding the normal age effect on future fertility,
these women may seek out treatments to remove and freeze eggs to be saved for
potential use in the future.
What does egg freezing
The actual treatment process involves part of the in vitro
fertilization (IVF) process.
Briefly, a woman would have 10-12 days of daily injections to cause a
group of her eggs to mature and develop. During this time, blood levels and ultrasounds
will be done to monitor her response to the medicines. To remove the matured
eggs, the woman then undergoes a brief in office outpatient procedure under
light anesthesia to remove the eggs. Once removed and inspected by an
embryologist, the mature eggs will be frozen until the woman would want to use
Does egg freezing guarantee a baby in the future?
No. Even in younger women (i.e., <38-years-old), the chance that one
frozen egg will yield a baby in the future is around 2-12%. As women get older
and egg quality goes down, the pregnancy rate per frozen egg drops further. It is common for a group of 6 frozen eggs from
a woman less than 38 to result in a singleton 40-50% livebirth rate in the
future. Some women are lucky enough to
get 2-3 groups of 6 eggs from 1 IVF cycle.
However, many others may elect to do 2 or 3 IVF cycles to get enough
vitrified eggs to help improve the chances of getting a live birth in the
Is there an age limit
to egg freezing?
Before starting a freezing cycle, a woman would need to speak with one
of the IRH physicians to determine if egg freezing is appropriate for her.
Every woman is different regarding the effects of age on her fertility,
keep in mind; some women in their early 40s do not suffer infertility. However,
most experts agree that elective egg freezing is most successful for woman
younger than 38 years of age. Blood work
and ultrasound measurements of the ovaries can help guide the decision process
for an individual woman.
If I freeze my eggs, can I wait until I am much older to
have a baby?
Cryopreserved eggs are not a guarantee of a future baby. One concern is that a woman might have a sense
of “false security” if she freezes eggs. She might delay her attempts to
conceive until she is much older (whereas she might have started trying at an
earlier age, with greater success, if she had not frozen eggs in the first
place). In addition to thinking about success rates of using frozen eggs, women
should also understand the potential medical risks and psychosocial concerns of
parenting at an advanced age.
Many of the studies showing successful pregnancies with frozen eggs have
been reported on women freezing their eggs in their 20s or early 30s. Pregnancy rates will not be as high for women
freezing eggs in their late 30s or early 40s.
Will Insurance cover
Most insurance plans do not cover elective egg freezing. However, for
patients at high risk for premature menopause (menopause before 40)--i.e.
patients about to undergo certain cancer treatments--some insurances might
offer partial or complete coverage.
What are the costs?
Costs can be divided into 3 broad phases:
• Consultation, medication, egg retrieval, and freezing costs
• Storage of eggs until use (usually an annual fee)
• Thawing and fertilizing of the eggs and transfer of the resulting embryo(s) to
Please contact IRH for costs associated with egg freezing at
• A woman who is not ready to have a child can choose to freeze eggs to
try to preserve her ability to have a child later.
• Freezing eggs is not a guarantee of being able to have a child later.
• Not everyone is a candidate for egg freezing.
• Egg freezing typically works best for those in their 20s to early 30s,
and is not usually recommended for women over 38 years.