8.5 MIN READ
By Extend Fertility
Extend Fertility offers premier egg freezing services in New York City. We’re the first service in the country to focus exclusively on women who want to proactively preserve their fertility options—and we believe these women deserve clinical excellence and a price that makes sense at this point in their lives.
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 freeze my eggs?
Short answer: if you’re not ready to have kids 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—you should consider freezing your eggs.
Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, and as they age, their fertility declines due to two factors: egg count and egg quality. Women lose upwards of a thousand eggs per month; by age 35, you have just 6% of your original egg count. That’s compounded by the fact that, with age, the DNA inside women’s eggs becomes inevitably degraded, and genetically unhealthy eggs aren’t able to create a healthy pregnancy or baby. So, as you get older, you have fewer eggs, and even fewer of the eggs that remain are healthy.
Female fertility declines throughout adulthood, but the decline steepens in a woman’s mid-30s; by 40, the chance of getting pregnant naturally each month is under 5% (compared to about 25% for women under 30). However, many women aren’t ready to get pregnant when they’re at their most fertile, for all those reasons we outlined above. By retrieving and preserving her eggs when they’re young, healthy, and plentiful, egg freezing can increase a woman’s chances of healthy pregnancy later in life.
How does egg freezing work?
The fancy scientific name for egg freezing is “oocyte” (egg) “cryopreservation” (freezing). Cryopreservation is a decades-old procedure used in several branches of medicine. The basic premise is this: cooling cells, in this case egg cells, to a very low temperature (think -196º Celsius, or about -320º Fahrenheit) stops all cell activity, including aging. In layman’s terms, that means that freezing your eggs prevents them from aging as they normally would, maintaining their health indefinitely.
What does the egg freezing process involve?
Because freezing more eggs means a higher chance of pregnancy later, the egg freezing process uses hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs in one menstrual cycle, instead of the single egg they would typically produce. Typically, women take these hormone injections for 8–11 days while being closely monitored by their doctor.
The process ends with a brief, outpatient surgical procedure, performed under mild anesthesia, to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries. Then they’re immediately taken to a special embryology lab, where they’re prepped and “vitrified,” or flash-frozen. The whole process, known as a cycle, takes about two weeks and requires one day off from work (for the egg retrieval).
What’s the best age to freeze my eggs?
In general, the younger you are, the better, 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.
However, this needs to be balanced against the chance that you’ll actually need to use frozen eggs—it can be difficult to predict that far into the future for many early 20-somethings! That’s why our doctors recommend ages 27–35 as the ideal range for egg freezing.
If you’re thinking about freezing your eggs in your mid-to-late 30s or early 40s, you can at least partially compensate for lower egg quality by freezing more eggs. This usually requires multiple egg freezing cycles, but it can give you a better chance of eventually achieving a healthy pregnancy.
What are the success rates?
There are a number of factors, including your individual biology, that can affect your chances of success (meaning, having a baby) with frozen eggs. However, your age at the time you freeze your eggs and how many eggs you freeze are two of the most important factors, so those two numbers can serve as a good guide.
According to a recent study of over 500 cycles undertaken by fertile women performed at Brigham & Women’s Hospital:
If you’re under 35 and you freeze 10 eggs, your chances of at least one live birth using those eggs later are about 60–70%. If you freeze 20 eggs, you have about a 90% chance of those eggs resulting in at least one live birth later on.
If you’re 37, your chances for at least one live birth later are about 50% with 10 frozen eggs and 75% with 20 frozen eggs.
If you’re 40, your chances for at least one live birth later are about 30% with 10 frozen eggs and 50% with 20 frozen eggs.
What happens if and when I’m ready to use my eggs?
If you decide to use your frozen eggs to try to get pregnant, you’ll need to use in vitro fertilization to create embryos. First, the eggs are thawed in a highly controlled lab environment; then, they’re combined with sperm and allowed to develop for 3–6 days. A percentage of the eggs will fertilize and begin to divide, creating embryos that are ready for transfer back into the woman’s body. The transfer is a quick non-surgical procedure, in which one or more embryos are inserted directly into the uterus through the cervix. After about 10 days, a blood pregnancy test can determine if the embryo has implanted.
Just like with fresh eggs, not every frozen egg will become an embryo. Statistically, some will be genetically abnormal and unable to fertilize, and not every embryo created will successfully implant into a woman’s uterus. Like everything in life, egg freezing provides no guarantees, but using eggs frozen while they’re young increases the chance of a healthy pregnancy later in life.
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—so you’ll have plenty of time to figure out if, when, and how you want to start your family.
How much does egg freezing cost?
The national average cost for egg freezing is $11,000 per cycle, plus medications (which are typically $2,000–$5,000 per cycle) and long-term frozen egg storage (which averages around $1,000 annually).
The good news is that, as the technology has improved and demand has increased, industry disruptors have developed ways to lower the cost of egg freezing, making it more accessible to more women. Extend Fertility is one such service. We’re the first practice to focus exclusively on women who are proactively freezing their eggs to preserve their fertility options. Here, your first egg freezing cycle will cost just $5,500, or half the national average, and additional cycles are $4,000. Storage is also less expensive through our partnership with New England Cryogenic Center; annual storage rates for our patients are $350–450, depending on the length of your storage plan. Finally, we offer multiple financing options, so you could have the option of one easy monthly payment for your egg freezing cycle, medications, and long-term storage.
It’s important to note that, while egg freezing may be a pricey consideration, for many women it can be considered an “investment” in their future fertility. That’s because women who want to have children in their late 30s or 40s are likely to need fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization to get pregnant—and will sometimes need multiple cycles of treatment. The cost of egg freezing before you’re 35 and using them in your 40s is significantly lower than the cost of IVF later—and those younger eggs are more likely to result in a pregnancy. That’s right—egg freezing could actually save you money.
Will my insurance cover egg freezing?
Most insurance does not cover elective egg freezing, though it may cover the medications used during the egg freezing process. That’s why we’re working to lower the cost of egg freezing for all women.
What steps can I take now, even if I’m not ready to freeze my eggs?
Even if you’re not ready to dive in and freeze your eggs right now, you should consider getting a fertility assessment, a series of tests used to measure how many eggs you have left and assess other potential barriers to fertility. These tests give you invaluable information about the state of your fertility now, and what your fertility future might look like.
A typical fertility assessment includes an anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) blood test and an antral follicle count. AMH is a protein hormone produced by cells inside the ovarian follicles, and the level of AMH in the blood can help doctors estimate the number of follicles inside the ovaries. An antral follicle count is performed by a doctor during an ultrasound; after visualizing the ovaries, the doctor can count the “activated” follicles in that cycle, and use that number to estimate a woman’s total ovarian reserve.
Together with your age and medical history, these tests give a doctor a fairly clear picture of your fertility health, including whether or not you’re at risk of entering early menopause and how effective treatments like egg freezing or in vitro fertilization might be for you. Our team at Extend Fertility offers fertility assessments and doctor consultations free of charge at our New York City office; you may also be able to access these tests through your OB/GYNs or a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility specialist). A fertility assessment is a great starting point when considering your family-planning goals.