One of the most common questions our team gets: “How many eggs should I freeze?” And for good reason—the number of eggs you freeze, along with your age, impacts your chances of success with egg freezing.
But you can’t answer the question “How many eggs should I freeze?” without understanding the egg freezing process. There’s a kind of “inverse pyramid” at play in any fertility treatment. Of the eggs you freeze, 90% or so will survive the thaw (when using vitrification, like we do at Extend Fertility). Of those that survive, a certain number will fertilize; that number varies based on your age at the time you froze your eggs and—a big X factor here—the quality of the sperm you’re using to fertilize your eggs. Of those that fertilize, a certain number will develop into healthy blastocysts—again, the number varies, driven primarily by the age of your eggs when frozen—and will be genetically normal (once again, based mostly on age). Finally, a certain number of all genetically healthy embryos will implant in the uterus and lead to healthy pregnancies and births.
Long story short: one egg ≠ one baby. (Even a healthy, fertile couple doing it naturally only has about a 20–25% chance of getting pregnant each month.)
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So how many eggs should you freeze to be “successful”? That depends on a few factors, including your age and your family goals. Let’s explore.
Factor #1: Your age
The first, and most important, consideration when answering “How many eggs should I freeze?” is your age.
That’s because, as you age, the DNA in your eggs is less likely to divide properly. This is known as a decline in egg quality. Abnormal DNA means the eggs probably won’t fertilize, but if they do, they can result in miscarriage or genetic anomalies. As you get older, a larger percentage of your eggs are genetically abnormal. That means that, to obtain the same level of confidence that at least some of the eggs you freeze will work, doctors recommend that older women freeze more eggs than younger women.
To understand this better, let’s take a look at a recent study on egg freezing success rates that tries to answer “How many eggs should I freeze?” This study, published in Human Reproduction last year, is based on the cycle data of 520 healthy, fertile women undergoing treatment at Brigham and Women’s in Boston; it combines the woman’s age at the time of freezing with how many eggs she’s frozen to determine her chance of a healthy pregnancy.
Learn more about egg freezing success rates.
This chart from Brigham & Women’s helps women answer “How many eggs should I freeze?”
As you can see from the chart above, a woman who is under 35 has about an 85% chance of having a baby with 15 frozen eggs. If a 38-year-old freezes the same 15 eggs, that would represent only a 60% chance of having a baby. In order for the 38-year-old woman to have the same 85% chance, she would need to freeze 30 or more eggs.
So when you ask “How many eggs should I freeze?”, you need to think about your age—and the chances of success with which you’re personally comfortable. (For example, is 60% good for you? Or are you looking for 85% to feel confident in your frozen eggs?)
Factor #1B: Your age = how many eggs you might freeze in each cycle
The other question you should be asking, besides “How many eggs should I freeze?” is how many cycles you might need to get to that number. This, too, is usually based on your age.
It’s not just egg quality that declines with age, it’s egg count, too—the number of eggs you have in your “reserves.” Younger women with larger “reserves” are more likely to produce a larger number of eggs each cycle, and therefore to reach their goal more quickly—maybe in just one cycle. Older women, or women with a lower egg count for other reasons (such as chemotherapy or other medical history), are less likely to reach their goal in one cycle, and may need multiple cycles to freeze enough eggs for a good chance at a baby later.
We use ovarian reserve testing, including an anti-Mullerian hormone blood test and an antral follicle count, to help make a confident projection about how many eggs you might make per cycle, and therefore how many cycles you might need. Both of these tests are offered as part of our fertility assessment.
The irony of fertility is that younger women need to freeze fewer eggs (because more of their eggs are genetically normal), but tend to produce more per cycle (because their reserves are higher)—while older women, who need to freeze more eggs (because more of their eggs are genetically abnormal), tend to produce fewer per cycle, because their reserves are lower. This is the primary reason we urge women to consider freezing their eggs while they’re in their late 20s or early 30s; they’ll be able to freeze more eggs in one cycle, with a higher chance of success per egg, than they would if they froze later.
Factor #2: Your family goals
The second consideration when trying to answer “How many eggs should I freeze?” is what kind of family you want. Do you want three kids? One? Or are you not even sure you want kids, but you want to preserve that option for yourself? These answers will change what success looks like for you, and the recommendation of how many eggs to freeze for success.
Think back to that inverse pyramid we talked about earlier. All of the factors that come into play for your first baby will come into play for the second, or third (if that’s what you want!). So if you want a bigger family, it makes sense that you’ll need a bigger “bank” of eggs to work with.
How many eggs to freeze also depends on how many children you might want later.
One way to calculate this is using this egg freezing counseling tool, developed by that aforementioned Brigham & Women’s research team. This tool gives you your chances of having one, two, or three babies, based on your age and how many eggs you’ve frozen.
For example: a 30-year-old woman with 15 frozen eggs has an 83% chance of one birth, a 50% chance of two, and only a 22% of three. If she’d always dreamt of a big family, she should consider freezing 25 eggs, for over a 1 in 2 chance of having three children. (Of course, keep in mind that baby #1 might be conceived naturally, so she might only need to use her frozen eggs for the second or third child.)
Tools like this, based on research, can help you find a comfortable answer to “How many eggs should I freeze?”
Factor #3: Your budget (money… and time, too!)
It’s not a fun topic, but when it comes to answering “How many eggs should I freeze?”, finances are at the forefront of the conversation for many women. The truth is, if cost (and time) weren’t an issue, every woman could freeze more than enough eggs. But as it stands, how many cycles you can complete—and therefore, how many eggs you can freeze—is limited by the budget you can devote to egg freezing.
We’re trying to make egg freezing more accessible for more women, by lowering the cost to half that of other clinics (under $5,000) and offering an easier monthly payment option. We’ve also made the option of a second or third cycle more affordable, to make it easier for every woman to reach their egg freezing goal. But even with this lower price, freezing your eggs is definitely an investment for most women. Understanding how many cycles you can afford is paramount to answering “How many eggs should I freeze?”
Our team is here to help you answer “How many eggs should I freeze?”
We know—it can be really hard to try to plan all this in advance! Most days we’re lucky if we can even plan what we’re having for dinner that night, so we get it.
That’s why our doctors, along with our whole healthcare team, are here to help. Figuring out the answer to “How many eggs should I freeze?” won’t be your responsibility, alone! Our egg freezing process begins with a fertility assessment, where we’ll collect information on your personal fertility health, and continues with a consultation. During this consultation, you’ll meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in fertility) who will help you set an egg freezing goal that’s right for you, based on your age, test results, medical history, goals, and budget.
Ready to get started?