Frequently Asked Questions About Egg Freezing
I am a 35 years old single woman and want to learn more about my fertility options, including choosing to conceiving now or freezing embryos or eggs for future use. In the past, the only options would have been to attempt to conceive now or create embryos to freeze using donor sperm. In the last five years the ability to freeze eggs has improved dramatically allowing this to be a serious option for women. The advent of a new laboratory procedure called vitrification has greatly improved our ability to freeze eggs. Here are the most frequently asked questions about egg freezing:
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
The ability to freeze eggs efficiently has alluded the reproductive field for 20 years. The human egg, otherwise known as an oocyte, is the largest cell in the human body. In the past the ability to remove the water from the cell was very difficult and most eggs did not survive the freeze and thaw of the eggs; this made freezing eggs a fairly unsuccessful procedure. With the advent of a method called vitrification where an inert substance replaces the water the ability to freeze and then thaw eggs has approached 70%. The success rate of frozen eggs approximate the success that a woman would have using a fresh egg; for example a woman who freezes her eggs at 35 and then decides to use these at age 40, success rates are approximately the same as age 35. Once the eggs are frozen, they can remain frozen for many years.
Who Should Consider Egg Freezing?
One of our most frequently asked questions about egg freezing is who should consider it? Certainly the younger a woman decides to freeze eggs the higher chance of success. However, freezing eggs younger than age 25 may not be necessary in most situations. A large study showed that freezing eggs between the age of 30 and 34 was ideal in a patient who was not in a long-term relationship. In this group of patients, there was a high chance of needing the eggs and still a high success rate. After age 35 success rates do decline and certainly after 40 freezing eggs may not be indicated. Ovarian reserve testing, including a day 3 Estadiol and FSH level, and an AMH level can help steer decisions.
What Are the Costs of Egg Freezing?
Many insurance companies in Massachusetts will cover egg freezing in instances of patients with cancer or patients with an illness who require chemotherapy. However more women, have been choosing to freeze eggs electively. At the Fertility Centers of New England, we make this treatment very affordable. A complete cycle of monitoring, egg retrieving and freezing the eggs costs $5,750; this includes all treatment except for medication.
Is it Better to Freeze Embryos or Eggs?
Another option for patients is to fertilize the embryos and freeze all embryos; this option is more suitable for a woman who is in a long-term relationship or even married who does not choose to have a child at this time in her life. Freezing embryos has a higher success rate than freezing eggs but is appropriate for a limited number of patients.
How Long Does the Egg Freezing Process Take?
The process of freezing eggs takes 10 to 12 days from start to finish; patients are often surprised how short the entire process takes. The patient will take a small subcutaneous injections for approximately 8 to 10 days and then come in for the egg retrieval process. This process involves conscious sedation such that the patient feels absolutely no pain or discomfort during the procedure, yet is still breathing on her own and wakes up immediately after the procedure. Once the egg retrieval is performed the eggs are then frozen and stored long-term at our facility.
How Frozen Eggs Are Used
Many patients ask about what the process is at the other end is when they want to use the eggs. I tell the patients that the upfront work accounts for 80 to 90% of the effort. When the patient chooses to utilize the eggs we monitor the patient’s natural cycle with blood tests and ultrasounds. When the lining of the uterus looks appropriate the patient starts a hormone called progesterone and comes in for the embryo transfer five days later. Patients are fully awake during the embryo transfer. The embryo transfer involves minimal discomfort and is fairly similar to a Pap smear.