How Do You Freeze Your Eggs and How Much Does It Cost? We Asked the Pros What to Expect
The number of women who chose to freeze their eggs in the United States grew by more than eight times between 2009 and 2013.
In 2015, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill determined that the best age for a woman to freeze her eggs (in terms of egg viability) is between 31 and 33. But they also noted that a younger woman might end up wasting her money because she has more time and is more likely to get pregnant naturally. Therefore the best age—when considering the eggs being viable as well as cost-efficient—is 37.
When a woman is 44, her chances of having a baby jump from 21.9 per cent for natural conception to 51.6 per cent if she uses eggs that she froze when she was 37. Thirty-seven seems to be the sweet spot, but it’s a small window: Successful birth rates dropped to the study’s lowest point (26.2 per cent) after age 40.
So who’s actually freezing their eggs? There isn’t any reliable Canadian data, but according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the number of women who chose to freeze their eggs in the United States grew by more than eight times between 2009 and 2013: from 475 to 3,938.
But why are women freezing their eggs? As Vancouver-based Dr. Sonya Kashyap, the medical director of Genesis Fertility Centre, argues: “It makes them feel empowered. Egg freezing gives women an option so they don’t feel pressured to have kids right away. They can take their time to find a suitable partner and feel ready. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was before.”
If you’re thinking of freezing your eggs we have more information here, and we also asked Dr. Kashyap what the process typically looks like and how much it costs. While the price and the necessary steps can differ depending on a number of factors, here’s an idea of what you can expect.
Cost of freezing your eggs: $7,000-$10,000
Cost of the drugs needed to stimulate your ovaries to release eggs: $2,000-$4,000
Annual fees of storing your eggs: $350-$500
Cost of each in vitro fertilization cycle if you decide to use your eggs: $3,000-$4,000
Once you’ve considered the cost, here are the steps you’ll need to go through to freeze (and subsequently thaw) your eggs.
Meet with your doctor to discuss your medical history.
You’ll have an ultrasound of your ovaries and some blood tests to determine your “ovarian reserve.” (That’s the number of eggs being used each month in order for you to ovulate one egg.) The ultrasound measures your antral follicle count, which is the number of immature eggs that are primed to grow. These primed follicles are called antral follicles. Many antral follicles are wasted each month to allow you to ovulate. The size of that group reflects how many of your eggs might be extracted during an egg retrieval. The anti-Müllerian hormone is a blood test that measures the hormone associated with the growth of antral follicles. On average, most women will have two to four clinic visits during this step.
You’ll begin daily follicle-stimulating hormone injections for up to two weeks to “rescue” the antral follicles that were going to be wasted that month. (That means your ovaries will produce multiple mature eggs in one menstrual cycle instead of the single egg they would typically release.) During this step, you’ll have early-morning blood work and transvaginal ultrasounds to assess how your ovaries are responding to the hormones.
When the time is right, you will be instructed to give yourself a trigger injection—the final time-sensitive injection before your eggs are collected some 36 hours later.
Egg retrieval time! You’ll be given conscious sedation, and the doctor will use an ultrasound-guided procedure to retrieve eggs from your ovaries. The procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Your mature eggs will be bathed in cryoprotectants—substances that draw water out of the eggs in order to reduce the risk of ice crystals forming when they’re being frozen. This is critical because crystals can damage the eggs. Your eggs will then be stored in straws and dipped in liquid nitrogen so they freeze almost instantly, before crystals can start to form.
When you’re ready to attempt to get pregnant, your eggs will be thawed; each one will be injected with a single sperm before being transferred to your uterus as an embryo. The success rate using frozen eggs appears to be similar to that of in vitro fertilization. For women aged 38 to 40, there’s a 22 per cent chance of success, and by age 43, this drops to 5 per cent, but the success rate varies depending on the woman’s age, the clinic and the individual.