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Facts & Figures

Egg Freezing FAQs

We understand you might have a lot of questions. That’s a good thing! We’ve collected a few of the most frequently asked questions for reference here, but if there’s something we haven’t covered, the healthcare team is just a phone call away.

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing is the process of preserving some of your eggs by retrieving them from your ovaries, freezing them, and storing them so you can use them to get pregnant later on.

Why would I consider preserving my eggs?

The short answer? To preserve your options. You might not be ready for babies right now (because of your relationships, career, finances, or a whole host of other reasons), but know you want kids later. Or that you might want kids later. Or you really have no idea whatsoever, but you want to keep that option open. Freezing your eggs buys you time and can give you more choices in the future.

What does age have to do with fertility?

While it’s never too late for us to get into the best shape of our lives, our eggs are on their own, seemingly ageist schedule. Age affects our eggs more than any other factor. Typically, the younger we are, the greater the quantity and quality of eggs we have.

Quantity: This is also referred to as “ovarian reserve.” Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have in their lifetime. At birth, that’s a cool million or so. However, as we get older, we lose those eggs if we don’t use them (as in, have a baby).

Quality: Age also degrades the genetic material of our eggs which can make having a healthy pregnancy tough. Eggs that are not chromosomally normal can result in miscarriage (most miscarriages are, in fact, a result of genetically unhealthy embryos), or, more commonly, not getting pregnant altogether. Chromosomal abnormalities can also lead to genetic disorders like Down syndrome. It isn’t every egg that degrades as you get older, just a higher percentage: in our 20s, about 80–90% of our eggs will be genetically normal, compared to about 50% when we’re in our 30s, and about 10–20% at 40 and older.

How does egg freezing address the business of aging?

Because science! Once the eggs are removed from your body and frozen according to precise protocols in a specialized lab, they can no longer age. So while we can’t stop ourselves from getting older, we can suspend our eggs in time. Your healthy, high quality eggs, once frozen, remain healthy and high quality.

This means that if you decide to use your frozen eggs to get pregnant years later, your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy by fertilizing them in a lab will be very similar to the chances you’d have of getting pregnant with those eggs by fertilizing them in a lab at the time they were frozen.

What can I expect during the egg freezing process?

Egg freezing typically entails 8–11 days of hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs in one menstrual cycle, instead of the single egg they would typically produce.

During this period, you’ll have 5–7 short office visits, including blood tests and transvaginal ultrasound exams. At these visits, we’ll assess your individual response to the medication and possibly make adjustments depending on how your eggs are progressing. Finally, there’s a 15-minute surgical procedure performed under mild anesthesia to retrieve the eggs from your ovaries. This whole process, from the beginning of the injections through to the retrieval, is called a “cycle.” Learn more.

Where can I get the medications necessary for egg freezing and how much will they cost?

Many of the medications required for egg freezing, like ovary-stimulating hormone injections, aren’t carried by your regular neighborhood pharmacy counter. (Click here for a list of egg freezing medications.) Instead, we’ll recommend a pharmacy that specializes in medications for egg freezing and other fertility treatments. The great thing about these specialty pharmacies is that they often offer other benefits, like online ordering and free delivery, and there are several right here in the New York metro area. Alternatively, you can purchase your medications from a variety of online retailers.

These medications aren’t part of our package price; typically, they cost between $2,000 and $4,000. The healthcare team will help you estimate the amount of medication you’ll need for your cycle, so that you can calculate your overall medication cost. Once you choose a pharmacy, the healthcare team will order your medications in advance, so they’ll have plenty of time to get to you before you start your cycle. (Click here for a list of pharmacies that carry egg freezing medications.)

How are the eggs retrieved?

While you are under anesthesia, the physician inserts a needle through the vaginal wall into each ovary to draw out the eggs and surrounding fluid. This is done with ultrasound guidance. The needle is attached to a catheter that’s connected to a test tube. The eggs flow through the catheter into these test tubes, which are then handed off to the embryologist, a highly trained expert in the science of oocyte cryopreservation (that’s the technical name for egg freezing). The entire procedure takes about 10–15 minutes. There are no scars left or stitches required. Learn more.

How are the eggs frozen?

Your eggs will be frozen by vitrification, a fast-freeze method that almost instantly transforms the eggs into a glass-like frozen state. Vitrification reduces the likelihood that the fluid in the egg will form ice crystals, which could damage it. Learn more.

Is the egg freezing procedure painful?

Certain parts of it can be, depending on how sensitive you are. The stimulation phase, during which you are injecting yourself with hormones, is generally more of a pain than it is painful. The needles are very thin and you inject them into the fatty tissue around your belly. (Don’t worry—the healthcare team will go over exactly how to administer these injections in great detail. You’re never alone during this process!)

Sometimes, the hormone medication may cause you to to feel bloated and crampy, because it has your ovaries working overtime. As for the transvaginal ultrasound exams, they aren’t painful, but they can be a bit uncomfortable because, well, they’re transvaginal ultrasound exams.

During the 10- to 15-minute procedure to retrieve the eggs, you will be under anesthesia and won’t feel a thing. You may experience some pain when you wake up, like a little soreness in the vaginal area and/or some abdominal cramping, similar to how you might feel when you’re getting your period.

Is there any risk of side effects from the egg freezing medications?

Thankfully, side effects are uncommon, and those experience are mostly minor. For about 1 in 4 women using stimulation medications, hormonal fluctuations can cause headaches, mood swings, insomnia, hot or cold flashes, breast tenderness, bloating, or mild fluid retention. Additionally, because most of your medications will be given by injection, your injection site could become sore, red, or slightly bruised. Allergic reactions are very rare.

Occasionally, these medications can get the ovaries working too hard, resulting in what we call “ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome” or OHSS. OHSS is associated with swollen, enlarged ovaries and the collection of fluid in the abdominal cavity. In less than 5% of cases, OHSS can require monitoring or bedrest; in extreme cases (less than 1% of women taking these medications) OHSS can cause medical complications, like ovarian torsion, that might require surgery. The chances of OHSS are very small, but the healthcare team takes them seriously. If you show any signs of developing the syndrome, your doctor will take steps to prevent it.

How long does it take to recover from the retrieval procedure?

We recommend you rest for the remainder of the day after the procedure. The vaginal soreness and cramping can last for a few days after the procedure. But usually, that’s it.

How do I know if I’m a good candidate for egg freezing?

In general, any healthy woman who currently has at least some healthy eggs and is not yet ready to have a baby is a good candidate for egg freezing.

As an initial step in the egg freezing procedure at Extend Fertility, you’ll have a fertility assessment, in which our healthcare team gathers information about your fertility and your overall health. Then, in a consultation, one of our physicians can review the benefits that egg freezing can realistically offer in your case.

At what age should I consider freezing my eggs?

In general, the younger you are, the better, simply because you’ll be able to produce and freeze more eggs in one cycle, with a greater percentage of them being genetically healthy. Typically, you’ll get the most healthy eggs before you turn 30, slightly fewer from 30–35, and then a much smaller yield over 35.

Keep in mind: In your mid-to-late 30s or even 40s, you can at least partially compensate for low egg quality by freezing more eggs to increase your odds. This usually requires multiple egg freezing cycles, but it can give you a better chance of eventually achieving a healthy pregnancy.

How many eggs should I aim to freeze?

That depends on several factors, the most important one being… (wait for it)… age! That’s because your age at the time of freezing is the best way to predict the likelihood of any individual egg being genetically normal.

While there isn’t a specific “magic number” that will guarantee a pregnancy later on, women 34 or younger can feel confident that freezing 10 eggs will give them a high potential for creating at least one child if used later on. For women 35–38 years old, about 15 eggs is optimal; for women 38 and older, the data are more limited and less clear; a cautious approach would be to aim for freezing 20 eggs or more.

Am I likely to need more than one egg freezing procedure to preserve enough eggs?

It depends. In general, when you are younger, you are likely to produce a larger number of eggs in one egg freezing cycle than when you are older. Younger women also produce a higher percentage of genetically healthy eggs, so they need to freeze fewer to begin with. Many younger women will reach their egg freezing target in just one attempt, while older women are likely to need to complete multiple egg freezing cycles to reach their goal.

How long can I keep my eggs frozen?

Scientifically speaking, frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely. There have been numerous healthy babies born from eggs frozen for 5–10 years, with the longest reported successful thaw coming after 14 years. There is no evidence that the health or viability of frozen eggs decreases over time.

Are frozen eggs as likely to produce results as fresh eggs?

Judging from the best studies and data available: when eggs are frozen and subsequently thawed in a high-quality lab, they appear to have a nearly equal potential to produce a healthy pregnancy to fresh eggs.

It’s important to understand that there have been a limited number of studies looking at the success rate of using frozen eggs. This is for two major reasons:
To overcome these limitations, researchers have looked at studies on freezing eggs from young egg donors and subsequently thawing them for another woman’s in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. One of the best studies assigned 600 couples to use either fresh donor eggs or frozen donor eggs for IVF. The results demonstrated equivalent pregnancy success rates for both sets of couples, regardless of whether they used fresh or frozen donor eggs.

  1. The use of vitrification for elective egg freezing is relatively new.
  2. When women freeze their eggs to preserve their fertility, they typically wait several years before using them. As a result, there are not yet many high-quality studies reporting large-scale results.

Is egg freezing different from in vitro fertilization (IVF)?

Yes. Although the first part of both procedures is the same and both involve egg retrieval, with IVF, the goal is usually to get pregnant and have a baby ASAP, so those retrieved eggs are then fertilized with sperm to create an embryo that’s transferred to the woman’s uterus. With egg freezing, you’re done after the egg retrieval—there’s no creation of an embryo, because the goal is simply to preserve your unfertilized eggs for the future.

How will I use my frozen eggs when I am ready to get pregnant?

Essentially, through the second part of IVF we mentioned above. Your eggs will be carefully thawed and fertilized with sperm to create embryos. You’ll begin a 2–3 week process taking oral medications and vaginal suppositories to prepare your body for the transfer of the embryos into your uterus, a 15-minute non-surgical procedure performed using ultrasound guidance. After about 10 days, you can take a blood pregnancy test to find out if the procedure was a success!

Where will my frozen eggs be stored, long-term?

Your frozen eggs will be stored at New England Cryogenic Center (NECC) in Marlborough, MA, the industry leader in cryopreservation storage and shipping. The facility is in a secure business park and employs 24/7 security and monitoring.

Why NECC? Simply put: they’re the best in the biz. For more than 25 years, NECC has provided cryopreservation services to clients and medical professionals around the world for human tissue: eggs, sperm, embryos—even stem cells and bone marrow. There are more than 385,000 samples stored at NECC.

NECC is registered and governed by the FDA, licensed with appropriate regulatory agencies, and is regularly inspected by several entities. They use a highly tested, fail-safe inventory and storage system.

Is New England Cryogenic Center a safe and secure place for my frozen eggs?

Absolutely. In fact, it’s the safest and most secure environment possible for frozen tissue. First, the security: the site is monitored 24/7 and staff are on site 365 days a year. The facility has video surveillance, an ADT alarm system, and motion detectors. All visitors must be identified and buzzed in. Eggs are stored in tanks in a designated storage room with its own security, and access to that room is restricted to only necessary personnel.

And with regard to safety: each tank has its own separate monitor and multiple monitoring systems in place to ensure proper tank temperature and liquid nitrogen levels. Tanks are visually inspected daily. NECC is protected from power failures by backup generators, and a 9,000-gallon gravity-fed liquid nitrogen tank is on premises in case of a power failure.

How will my frozen eggs be stored?

Once they’re retrieved and cleaned, your eggs are placed onto small straws, approximately the diameter of a piece of spaghetti, and immersed in liquid nitrogen to freeze them. Next, they’re placed into a small tube-shaped container called a “goblet.” The straws and goblets are labeled with the your first and last name, medical record number, the date the eggs were frozen, and a unique code. These labels are specifically created for use with liquid nitrogen.

How will my eggs be prepared for transportation and storage?

The goblets containing your frozen eggs are stored in large tanks filled with liquid nitrogen to keep them at the correct temperature (-196ºC). To prepare for transportation, NECC will provide a smaller shipping tank, filled with liquid nitrogen vapor. Before the tank leaves NECC, and again when it arrives at Extend Fertility, it’s inspected to ensure it’s the correct temperature and in good condition. Then, the goblets containing your eggs will be moved safely from the storage tank to the shipping tank.

How will my frozen eggs be transported to New England Cryogenic Center?

Your eggs will be shipped by FedEx or Midnight Express—two companies with whom NECC has worked for over 20 years. The liquid nitrogen vapor in the shipping tanks keep the eggs at the proper temperature, -196ºC, for the entire trip, which typically takes less than five hours. Shipping is quite safe and secure, and more common than you might think; NECC has sent and received over 100,000 shipments in the last 20 years, without incident.

What will happen to the frozen eggs once they get to NECC?

Once received, the shipment is logged manually and Extend Fertility is notified. The goblets containing your eggs are then moved back to larger storage tanks. Records are kept electronically and in hard copy, with at least three layers of double-checks to verify patient identification information. NECC has an established inventory and storage system that uses both paper and electronic databases and backups.

Are there risks to transporting my eggs?

There’s no evidence that moving your eggs from one lab to another affects their health or ability to become fertilized later. The shipping tanks in which your eggs are transported are able to maintain the very low temperatures required for at least a week, ensuring that the eggs stay in a deep freeze.

A review of over 1,200 donor egg cycle outcomes at Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, Georgia, demonstrated that there’s no evidence of a decrease in survival rate, fertilization rate, blastocyst rate, implantation rate, or clinical pregnancy rate for shipped frozen eggs when compared to frozen eggs that have not been transported.

Can I transport my eggs to another fertility clinic to use or store?

Absolutely. We’ve partnered with a medical practice to provide a seamless experience if or when you decide to use your frozen eggs. But if you’ve relocated or you decide to pursue treatment with another clinic, we’ll help arrange for safe and expeditious transport of your frozen eggs and share all lab protocols and other necessary information necessary with your chosen provider or facility.

What happens to my eggs if I don’t use them?

Some women who freeze their eggs go on to find a partner and get pregnant the old-fashioned way. (For them, their banked eggs may give them a chance at having a second or third child, if they choose!) And some women decide not to use their eggs at all. In that case, they may be able to donate them to a specific person for reproductive purposes or have their eggs appropriately discarded.

If I don’t use my eggs, can I donate them?

You have the option to donate your unused eggs to someone you know, but you’ll need to decide if you want that option before you start your egg freezing cycle. That’s because egg donors must undergo a series of FDA and genetic tests, including infectious disease screening and a full physical, before they are cleared for donation. There is an additional cost associated with these tests. If you’d like the option to donate your eggs to someone you know in the future, talk to your fertility advisor, who can set up this testing for you. Extend Fertility does not currently offer the option of anonymous egg donation.

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FAQs

We understand you might have a lot of questions. That’s a good thing! We’ve collected a few of the most frequently asked questions for reference here, but if there’s something we haven’t covered, the healthcare team is just a phone call away.

See the FAQs.

Studies Say

Cryopreservation, fertility preservation, and egg freezing have been researched by physicians and other experts for decades. This list includes some of the most enlightening and important studies published in the field of reproductive medicine.

See the studies.

Glossary

We try to keep things simple, but sometimes, we have to use medical lingo to be as accurate as possible. This glossary is here as a reference, just in case we ever use a phrase that’s not familiar to you.

See the glossary.

Forms & Resources

Current and prospective patients can find paperwork and resources for medication, insurance, and more here.

See forms & resources.


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