If you’re planning to freeze your eggs to preserve your fertility and start your family at a later time, the next question is how many eggs do you need to freeze?
This question has several factors that need to be taken into consideration:
- Age - The younger the woman, the healthier the eggs and the more likely they are to fertilize and develop. This means that as a woman ages, she will need to freeze a higher amount of eggs in order to plan for one attempt at a baby.
- Workup - Your physician will do a complete workup to determine your fertility potential and take into account any medical or fertility issues that arise. Some preexisting issues such as Lupus or a cancer diagnosis qualify you to access egg freezing covered by insurance.
- Goals - How many children would you like to have? If you’d like to plan for two or more, you will need to freeze more eggs to increase your chances of success.
- Cost - What does each cycle cost you? While some women have access to benefits that cover all or some of the costs for a cycle, many do not. How many cycles you complete will depend upon your coverage and financial flexibility. Out of pocket costs for an egg freezing cycle and medication are roughly $10,000.
When to Freeze
At the end of the day, all of these factors fall along a spectrum. Every woman’s situation is unique and different; not every 35-year-old or 40-year-old is the same. While we know egg quality declines more rapidly over 35, it can also decline earlier or later - it all depends on the individual biology of the woman.
The goal age to freeze is roughly age 28-35. According to research, freezing eggs and embryos are equally effective until age 38. Following age 38, embryo freezing is slightly more effective but may require a sperm donor.
How Many to Freeze
In the same way it is recommended to “diversify” one’s financial investments, the same strategy applies to family planning. Some women may freeze eggs in one cycle and embryos in another.
For women less than 35, it is ideal to freeze at least 12-15 eggs for a high chance of one child; this number increases as women get older. Of the hundreds of thousands of egg retrievals we have done, we see an average of 9-10 eggs retrieved per patient in one cycle; the average patient age is 35.9.
In some cases, women will need to do more than one cycle to get to the “goal number” of eggs to freeze. Your doctor will create a custom number of frozen eggs to aim for based on your personal goals.
What Medical Research Shows
Studies suggest that women do not freeze enough eggs for their perceived goals. For this reason, it is essential to see a provider that realistically reviews your success based on the total egg number yielded.
Equally important is freezing your eggs at a center that has experience in achieving babies from previously frozen eggs. I’m thrilled to be part of a center that has frozen over 14,600 eggs to date.
From 1,115 eggs thawed, we saw a clinical pregnancy rate of 55-60% per transfer. This success rate is equal to that of eggs that have not been frozen, a huge feat!
The Egg Freezing Process
- To get the ovaries ‘in sync’ for the procedure, you may be placed on birth control pills for one month. This allows your physician to control the timing of your cycle and synchronize follicle (immature egg) growth.
- To stimulate the ovaries, injectable medication administered with a tiny needle in the abdomen will be required for an average of 8-14 days. While on medication, monitoring via ultrasound will typically be required every day or every other day.
- Once stimulated follicles have developed into mature eggs, which usually occurs after two weeks, you will undergo an egg retrieval. During the egg retrieval you will be placed under sedation for the length of the procedure, which will take 15-30 minutes.
If you are considering freezing your eggs, we encourage you to ask your center a lot of questions before making your final decision. The time you put into planning now will help to shape your family future!
Director of the Center for Fertility Preservation at Fertility Centers of Illinois
Curious about what it’s like to go through the process?
Read two firsthand accounts of women who froze their eggs: