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How does egg freezing work, and when should you consider it?

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2023 | Assisted Reproduction

Egg freezing is an assisted reproductive technique that collects and stores mature eggs that, when thawed and fertilized later, will hopefully result in a pregnancy. While the process has been most commonly sought by women and couples with health risks related to infertility, anyone who can become pregnant is a candidate.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Technology, the method surged 31% in 2021, rising to nearly 25,000 egg-freezing cycles. The increase is partly attributed to “planned egg freezing,” a term applied when there is no overriding medical reason for saving mature eggs.

The three most common candidates for egg freezing

Fertility experts say the best candidates for egg freezing and successful resulting pregnancies are healthy, 35 years old or younger and have normal hormone levels. But the process is not exclusive to those who meet those recommendations. Here are three primary scenarios for egg freezing:

  • You have a medical condition: Cancer and cancer treatments can jeopardize fertility. Talk to a fertility specialist if you receive a diagnosis that increases your risk.
  • You’re focusing on your career: More women are waiting longer to start a family, many into their 40s. If you don’t plan to get pregnant before turning 35, it might be worth considering egg freezing.
  • You don’t have a partner: Some single women opt for assisted reproductive technology using donor sperm, but others want to wait until they’ve found the “one.”

A recent American Society for Reproductive Medicine study found an average success rate of 39% for live births from frozen eggs. For those 38 or younger, when freezing occurred, that rate increased to 51%.

Get the facts from experts

Candidates for egg freezing can complete the process for one cycle in less than a month. Women begin by giving themselves injections for about two weeks before mature eggs are collected and frozen. Doctors say the process is relatively painless, and serious health risks are considered low.

But it can be expensive, running between $10,000 and $20,000 per cycle. Consult your employer’s health insurance plan to see if any expenses are covered. Annual storage fees run, on average, close to $500. Talking to a fertility expert early on is advisable as each situation is unique.

Surplus frozen eggs provide hope for others

In some cases, women or couples who successfully become pregnant may donate any remaining frozen eggs to those who cannot conceive on their own or for use by same-sex partners. When donated eggs or sperm are involved, seeking legal advice from an attorney specializing in assisted reproduction law is crucial to identify potential red flags related to parenting rights.