If you keep up with Keeping Up with the Kardashians, you might know that the youngest Kardashian sister, Khloe, is freezing her eggs on the show, and you may have some questions. Here, we’ll explain Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing process, her conversations with her doctor, and her considerations on the show.
First, Khloe does an ultrasound to understand how many eggs she might be able to freeze this month.
During a transvaginal ultrasound, Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing doctor says that he’s looking for follicles, explaining that the follicles he sees are “approximately how many eggs we might be able to harvest this month,” and that he’d like to see upwards of 10 follicles.
This step in Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing process is called an antral follicle count. Each follicle in the ovaries contains an immature egg, and each month, the ovaries “activate” a certain number of follicles.
Typically, without the addition of egg freezing hormones, just one of those follicles will mature an egg for ovulation. During the egg freezing process, hormone injections are used to mature multiple follicles—but we’re still working with the same “cohort” of activated follicles. So an antral follicle count can help give a good idea of the number of eggs you can freeze in any particular month.
There are usually other ovarian reserve tests done as well, including a blood test for anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), a hormone produced by the ovarian follicles. The higher the level of AMH in the blood, the more ovarian follicles there are—so the higher your total egg count, and the more eggs you’re likely to freeze in one egg freezing cycle. We can only assume that Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing consultation included this standard testing.
Here at Extend Fertility, we do an ultrasound with an antral follicle count as well as an AMH blood test as part of the fertility assessment, a free appointment. That data—together with your age—allows our doctors to estimate how many eggs you can freeze in one cycle, and what that means for your chances of conceiving with those frozen eggs later.
In the show, Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing numbers look good. “The doctor is really happy with the amount of follicles I have at the moment,” she says, “so this is going to be the perfect month to start hormone injections, and hopefully those will help my follicles grow.”
Khloe’s doctor explains that egg freezing is a numbers game.
During her appointment, Khloe asks her egg freezing doctor if he can tell which eggs are “strong” before they’re frozen. “If I have 15, or whatever,” she says, “then you see if they’re strong before we freeze them?”
The doctor clarifies that only mature eggs are frozen. Mature eggs are those that have gone through the necessary process of cell division before they’re retrieved, and the reason only mature eggs are frozen is because they’re the only ones that will be able to fertilize later on.
“Once the eggs are out,” the doctor explains, “then we’ll be able to see: this one’s mature, this one’s mature, this one is not quite mature—and then we’ll freeze all the mature ones.” This process is actually done by an embryologist, a scientist in the field of reproduction, who uses a high-powered microscope to identify mature and immature eggs. Typically, about 75% of eggs retrieved are mature.
But just because an egg is mature doesn’t mean it’s genetically normal, meaning it’s divided to contain the right amount of intact DNA. Only genetically normal eggs can fertilize and result in a healthy pregnancy. “Even when we freeze the mature ones,” Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing doctor explains, “we don’t know which ones will be good.”
The percentage of eggs that are genetically healthy depends primarily on your age at the time of freezing. This is known as your “egg quality.” The decline in egg quality with age is consistent and universal. In other words: women in their 20s will have mostly normal eggs, though they already have some abnormal ones. And women in their 40s will have mostly abnormal eggs—even if they’re a Kardashian.
At Khloe’s age, 35, approximately half of your eggs are healthy. This “numbers game” is why we emphasize that one egg doesn’t equal one baby—you’ll need to freeze lots of eggs for a good chance of getting pregnant with them later.
Khloe learns the difference between egg freezing and embryo freezing.
During Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing appointment, she learns about the primary difference between freezing eggs and freezing embryos: the ability to genetically test them. Because they’re only one cell, eggs can’t be genetically tested.
But embryos, on the other hand, have over a hundred cells, so an embryologist can safely extract a few cells for genetic testing. This is known as preimplantation genetic screening or PGS. PGS can help ensure that an embryo has the proper number of chromosomes to survive and thrive before it’s transferred for potential pregnancy.
As Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing doctor explains, “We can test the embryos, and that’s the big difference between freezing the eggs and freezing embryos.”
Khloe grapples with the decision to freeze eggs, embryos, or both.
“The only way [to know] if you have a strong embryo is if you mix egg and sperm together, and if you’re going to go through this process, you want to go through it with the best guarantee that it’s going to be a success,” Khloe says. “It’s like a tug-of-war. I don’t really know what to do.”
She discusses the possibility of “splitting” the eggs she retrieves—freezing some as eggs and creating some embryos—with her doctor. This is an option for some women, if you are able to retrieve enough eggs, and if you have a biological father in mind.
Khloe discusses the latter decision with her sisters, suggesting she may ask her former partner Tristan Thompson to serve as her sperm donor. “After my doctor’s appointment, I talked to Tristan,” she says. “If you create embryos and do all the DNA testing, I do think that’s the smarter choice. It’s weird, because Tristan and I are not together… He has to sign legal paperwork that he would just be my sperm donor. But what [if], in three years, I get married to someone [else].”
Khloe’s conundrum highlights the primary obstacle or downside to freezing embryos: you’re locking yourself into a biological father for those embryos, whether it’s a partner or a sperm donor. Once an embryo is created, it can’t be “undone,” so if you create embryos now, you’re literally and figuratively putting all of your eggs in one basket.
Khloe’s concern for the legalities brings up another consideration in the egg vs. embryo freezing conversation. Typically, when creating embryos within a couple (even if that couple isn’t married), the embryos belong to both members of the couple—which can get messy if the couple breaks up, one person wants to use the embryo(s) while the other doesn’t, or one person wants to discard the embryos while the other doesn’t.
Using a “known donor,” like Khloe’s ex-partner, doesn’t completely eliminate the legal or financial risks. There are additional complications: donor sperm—even from a known donor—must be quarantined, meaning kept frozen, for 6 months before you can use it, to rule out the potential for infectious disease. That means you really have to plan ahead. (Because donor sperm banks only release sperm that’s already been quarantined, and manage all the legalities, it’s often actually easier to go that route than to work with a known donor.)
Learn more about freezing eggs vs. freezing embryos.
Ultimately, Khloe decides to freeze just eggs—for now.
Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing decision comes down to a “freeze for now” approach. “I decided that the eggs [my doctor] retrieves today, I’m going to freeze,” she says. “If I want, I can still [thaw] them and put them with sperm, but I want to see how many eggs I have before I make that decision.”
This is absolutely true. Firstly, once your eggs are frozen, you have plenty of time to decide your next steps—scientific studies tell us eggs can be frozen indefinitely without any impact on their quality. If you decide you’d like to freeze embryos, instead, the lab will thaw the eggs and fertilize them to create embryos, which can then be genetically tested. These embryos can then be frozen once again, for as long as you need.
Khloe describes very mild side effects from the egg freezing medication.
Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing experience is fairly breezy, as she describes it. Apart from a lot of bruising on her stomach, she says it’s “not that bad”: “I’ve been doing hormone injections for about five days, and the injection process has been fine.”
This is actually a very common reaction to the medication. Despite the idea that fertility medication makes everyone “crazy,” only about 25–30% of women experience side effects from the 8–11 days of injections. Those side effects are typically mild and temporary—things like bloating, mood swings, headaches, and other symptoms you might expect around your period. The chance of more serious side effects is very low.
Learn more about egg freezing side effects.
Khloe has her egg retrieval and gets the results of her egg freezing process.
Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing cycle culminates in an egg retrieval. The procedure is minimally invasive, typically takes about 20 minutes, and requires no cuts or stitches. “The whole egg retrieval process was really not as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Khloe explains. After the procedure, Khloe’s doctor tells her that he retrieved 12 mature eggs.
What does that mean in terms of success rates? We can use models based on real IVF data to estimate what Khloe’s chance of success, meaning her chance of having a baby using those eggs later. For example, a study published in 2017 of 520 fertile women undergoing IVF allowed researchers to create a tool that estimates egg freezing success based on A) how many eggs you freeze, and B) your age at the time of freezing. According to this model, a 35-year-old woman who freeze 12 eggs—like Khloe Kardashian—has a 75% chance of at least one live birth with those eggs.
Learn more about egg freezing success rates.
Khloe considers doing another cycle in the future.
“I am thinking about doing a second round of egg retrieval, but this time making embryos” with ex-partner Tristan Thompson, Khloe explains.”I really think I will feel a lot better knowing, ‘okay, I have five embryos in the freezer and if I want to use them, I have them there.’”
Many women consider a second cycle after their first, in order to freeze a number of eggs that allows them to feel comfortable with their chances of pregnancy. This is actually one of the main reasons women should look into egg freezing at a younger age: the younger you freeze, the less likely you are to need multiple cycles. Our own research demonstrates that for women 34 or younger, only about 20% typically need to do a second cycle to achieve a high likelihood of success. For women 35–37 years old, like Khloe, about 40% may need a second cycle.
Has Khloe Kardashian’s egg freezing experience made you curious to learn more? We offer free fertility assessments and doctor consultations for egg and embryo freezing patients, so you can learn more, pressure-free.