If you know you don’t want kids right now but would like the option of having a family in the future, egg freezing could be a great option for you. This technique involves storing eggs while you’re younger to give yourself a better chance of conceiving if/ when you decide you’d like to be a mom later on.
Nowadays, women have more options than ever before. Many of us choose to work, study, and explore the world before settling down with a family. There are also plenty of women who are happy to be single, and don’t want to have kids until they’ve found the right partner. Unfortunately, our biological clocks haven’t quite caught up with modern living. As women, we are born with all the eggs we will ever have, and over time, the number and quality of these eggs decrease. This can make it more difficult to achieve a healthy pregnancy.
By freezing your eggs, you are essentially pausing time on their aging process. This means that when you’re ready to use them in the future, you’ll have younger, healthier eggs available which will hopefully boost your odds of having a baby. Egg freezing can also help reduce the risk of ‘panic partnering’, where women choose to settle in a relationship because they’re worried they’re running out of time to become a mom. If you’re single, egg freezing can offer you some security about your future fertility and give you time to relax while you find the right life partner.
Interested in egg freezing? Read on to discover our ultimate guide to preserving your fertility, including the steps, costs, and side effects involved with freezing your eggs.
What is the Egg Freezing Process?
During an egg freezing cycle, you could expect the following steps to happen:
Pre-Treatment Tests: Before starting your egg freezing journey, your doctor will probably want to run some tests e.g., checking your ovarian reserve (the number and quality of eggs in your ovaries). These tests will allow your healthcare team to tailor your treatment plan to your specific needs.
Ovarian Stimulation: You will take stimulatory drugs that cause several follicles (the sacs in your ovaries that contain eggs) to grow. You will frequently visit your fertility clinic for blood tests and ultrasound scans to monitor your progress.
Egg Collection:Once your follicles have reached a suitable size, you will take a ‘trigger’ shot that causes your eggs to ripen. You will then attend the fertility clinic, where a doctor carefully removes the eggs from your ovaries during an egg collection. You will likely be under anesthesia for this procedure, so will need someone to drive you home afterward.
Egg Freezing: A specially trained embryologist will freeze all your mature eggs soon after retrieval. Your eggs will remain in storage until you are ready to use them.
Using Your Eggs:If you decide you would like to use your eggs in the future, you will need fertility treatment to help you get pregnant.
Is Egg Freezing Covered By My Health Insurance?
If you need to freeze your eggs for medical reasons, such as before chemotherapy, there’s a good chance your insurance will help pay for at least some of the costs of your treatment. For example, in New York (and many other states), it’s now a legal requirement that insurance companies must cover egg freezing for medically necessary purposes. However, these mandates do not typically extend to providing cover for social egg freezing (i.e., a fertile person freezing their eggs to achieve a pregnancy later in life).
It is possible that your specific policy may include elective egg freezing, and some workplaces even offer to pay for this treatment for female employees, so it’s worth speaking with your insurance provider and employer to see if this is something they could cover. Regardless of your circumstances, we would always recommend reading over your insurance policy plan before starting your egg freezing journey to make sure you’re well-versed in what’s included.
How Much Does Egg Freezing Cost?
If you’re paying out of pocket, egg freezing can be an expensive process. The cost of egg freezing can vary greatly depending on where you live, the fertility clinic you choose, and the medication you need during treatment. The table below can give you a rough idea of some of the prices involved with egg freezing but please note this is just a guide and you should contact your fertility clinic for a more tailored estimate.
Is there an Age Limit for Egg Freezing?
No, there’s no age limit to egg freezing! The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that for the best results, you should look into egg freezing in your 20s or early 30s (1). This is because as women age, the number of healthy eggs in their ovaries decreases, making it more difficult to become pregnant.
However, if you’re in your late 30s or 40s, it doesn’t mean that egg freezing is completely off the cards. We’d recommend speaking with your healthcare provider to see whether this technique could work for you.
What are the Side Effects of Egg Freezing?
As with all medical treatments, some possible side effects are associated with egg freezing. Thankfully, the odds of any of these happening are relatively low. However, it’s important to know about the potential risks so that you can make an informed decision about your treatment. Some of the possible side effects of egg freezing include:
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): The chief near-term risk during an egg freezing cycle is overstimulating your ovaries – ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. This happens in approximately 5% of IVF and egg freezing cycles. In severe forms, it can be dangerous, with symptoms that include shortness of breath, gastric reflux, pain and vomiting.
Stimulatory Drugs Side Effects: It’s not uncommon to experience symptoms like fatigue, bloating, and headaches whilst taking stimulatory drugs. If you notice any unusual side effects, you should speak with your healthcare team right away.
Egg Collection Risks: As with all surgeries, there are some risks involved with having an egg collection. These include the potential for infection or an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Thankfully, the chance of any of these happening are extremely low.
Unsuccessful Fertility Treatment: If you decide to use your eggs in the future, there are no guarantees that the fertility treatment will work. Unfortunately, some women are unable to have a baby with their frozen eggs. Though this can be a scary prospect, it’s an important factor to consider before starting treatment.
How Many Eggs Should You Freeze?
The number of eggs you should freeze will depend on many factors like your age, your ovarian reserve, and how many kids you might like to have. Generally speaking, the more eggs you freeze, the more likely you are to have a child in the future. The graph below can give you some idea of how many eggs you should freeze depending on your age to give yourself a good chance of having at least 1 child.
Source: Doyle et al (2016) (2)
Improving Your Chances of Egg Freezing Success
Although all women will see a natural decline in egg quality and quantity as they age, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to improve your chances of a positive egg freezing outcome. What you put into your body can have profound effects on your overall health, so it’s not surprising that it can influence your fertility too.
As eggs mature in the ovaries, there’s a 90-day window where their health can be influenced by external factors (like your diet!). Research has shown that eating enough foods rich in nutrients like omega-3, vitamin D, and zinc can boost egg quality, improving fertility treatment outcomes and egg freezing success!
So, if you’re looking into egg freezing, it’s a good idea to work closely with a Registered Dietitian for at least 3 months before you start your treatment cycle. This will ensure that the modifications you make to your diet will have enough time to make positive changes to your egg health.
Want to learn more about how your diet could influence your egg freezing results? We’ve put together a handy guide all about this topic that you can check out here. We would recommend reading this article before starting your egg freezing journey to optimize your chances of a successful outcome.
Nicole Holness is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is experienced in helping women with their fertility, pregnancy, and overall wellness. If you are thinking about freezing your eggs, please get in touch! We are here to create a unique nutrition and diet plan for you that will optimize your egg freezing experience and let you nourish and flourish for life.
(2) Doyle, J. O. et al (2016) ‘Successful elective and medically indicated oocyte vitrification and warming for autologous in vitro fertilization, with predicted birth probabilities for fertility preservation according to number of cryopreserved oocytes and age at retrieval’ Fertility and Sterility, 105 (2), Pages 459-466. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.10.026.