Should You Freeze Your Eggs? 6 Things to Know Before You Do

More people are opening up about “banking” their eggs. Find out if the procedure is right for you.

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Medically reviewed in May 2022

Updated on May 31, 2022

If you’ve been thinking about having children, you may have considered a range of factors as part of your decision-making process. These might include balancing the demands of a career with those of starting a family. Many people also have certain health conditions requiring treatment that may harm one’s fertility. For many parents, the desire to have children runs into conflict with the optimal time to do so. 

The fact remains that, reproductively speaking, most women's fertility peaks before age 32. After that, the chances of getting pregnant gradually decline. That's part of why, each year, thousands of women choose to preserve their own eggs or donor eggs during their peak reproductive years.

Freezing or "banking" one’s eggs is a form of fertility treatment—also known as assisted reproductive technology (ART)—that offers the option of becoming pregnant later in life. 

Are you wondering whether this procedure might be right for you or what to expect if you do decide to go ahead? Here are some key takeaways to consider.  

It’s better to start the process early

One of the most important things for people to know is that early freezing is better than waiting, says Jessica Shepherd, MD, an OBGYN and associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Women in their early 30s who know they're going to push off childbearing for another four or five years should freeze their eggs then, instead of waiting until they are 38 or 39,” she says.

If you have cancer and need to undergo chemotherapy, it’s better to freeze your eggs beforehand. “Treatments like chemo can damage the integrity of the eggs," says Dr. Shepherd.  

It's a multi-step process

About two weeks prior to the actual removal of your eggs, you’ll administer daily hormone injections to stimulate egg production. Once your eggs have matured in the ovaries, the actual retrieval process only takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The eggs are then frozen to be stored for later use.

When the time arrives for your eggs to be used, they’ll be thawed and then combined with healthy sperm during the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process. Three to five days later, if embryos form, one or more will be placed in your uterus. About 10 days after that, a blood test can confirm a pregnancy.  

It’s going to cost big bucks

The total cost from start to finish is not cheap and depends on your clinic. Wherever you are located, you can expect to pay at least $10,000 for the initial medications, egg harvesting, and storage. Down the line, thawing, fertilization, and embryo transferal will cost several thousands more. In many cases, the process is not covered by insurance. 

For some people, the process will take multiple tries, so many clinics and hospitals offer reduced costs for those who undergo two or more rounds of treatment. Payment plans are often an option, and some insurance companies and infertility groups can help patients with the costs, as well, says Shepherd.

It’s not 100 percent effective

With many ART options, it’s not guaranteed the process will be successful. Your eggs may not survive freezing, thawing, or fertilization, or you could have to keep repeating the process to get pregnant. 

“There’s a possibility that you may not harvest the size or the amount of eggs that are optimal for retrieving,” says Shepherd. "Or, if they are retrieved, they may not be the quality of what would be good for an actual pregnancy, so they won't recommend you freeze those."

The timeframe in which a woman preserves her eggs is a major factor in its success rate. Freezing during peak reproductive years increases the chances. 

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the odds of a single frozen egg leading to a successful pregnancy is about 2 to 12 percent; those chances grow the more eggs you freeze. Still, each year, about 2.1 percent of babies born in the United States are conceived using ART, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's more likely to lead to a multiple birth pregnancy

Using IVF may increase your chances of becoming pregnant with twins, triplets, or more. That’s because multiple eggs are often fertilized during the process and more than one embryo may be transferred to your uterus. Many healthcare providers (HCPs) recommend limiting the number of embryos transferred and some even suggest one at a time is best if there are multiple options.

It comes with side effects and risks

While egg freezing and IVF processes can help people who are unable to get pregnant on their own, there may be some mild-to-moderate risks and side effects involved. The injections may cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, for example, during which your ovaries swell. This can result in bloating, nausea, and light cramping, among other symptoms. Risks like bleeding and infection are associated with egg retrieval, too.

Like all pregnancies, there is also a risk of birth defects, miscarriage, and tubal pregnancy. The risk of birth defects is slightly higher for those who use IVF than the general population. Whether the increased risk is due to the IVF procedure itself or the mother’s age and other factors is still being studied. 

Finally, as with any multiple pregnancy, the chances for fetal health problems or birthing complications increases. Many people, however, give birth to multiples without these troubles.

Article sources open article sources

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Treating Infertility. November 2020. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Robertson JA, Egg freezing and egg banking: empowerment and alienation in assisted reproduction. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Volume 1, Issue 2, June 2014, Pages 113–136.
Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago. Embryo transfer procedure for in vitro fertilization. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
USC Fertility. Frequently Asked Questions About Egg Freezing. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Sarah McHaney. 7 things every woman should know before freezing her eggs. PBS NewsHour. December 10, 2014.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fact Sheet. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Preliminary National Summary Report for 2020. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. In vitro fertilization (IVF). September 10, 2021. Accessed May 19, 2022.
MedlinePlus. In vitro fertilization (IVF). January 1, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Planned Parenthood. What Is IVF? 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Pacific Fertility Center. Egg Freezing Cost. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
NYU Langone Health. Fertility Center Financial Information & Patient Forms. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Is In Vitro Fertilization Expensive? 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Can I Freeze My Eggs to Use Later If I'm Not Sick? 2014. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ART Success Rates. March 17, 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.
University of Missouri Health Care. A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Egg-Freezing Technology. 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022.

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