You might have heard at some point that freezing your eggs can help you preserve your fertility options for your long term future. But just how many eggs should you freeze? Is there an optimal number for egg freezing?
Let’s take a look at how many eggs you can expect to get during the retrieval process and how many eggs you should be freezing for fertility preservation.
How many eggs do I have?
Before we talk about the number of eggs you should freeze during oocyte cryopreservation — more commonly known as freezing your eggs — we should probably talk about how many eggs are in your ovaries right now.
Your fertility doctor may have mentioned the term ovarian reserve a few times. When they do that, they’re talking about the number of eggs in your body. But how many eggs are in that reserve?
There is no exact answer here. On average, women are born with anywhere from one to two million eggs. Some women are born with more. Some women are born with less.
It may sound like a lot either way, but most of the eggs we’re born with don’t stick around. By the time most of us hit adolescence,we have about 300,000 eggs left. From there, the number of eggs in the body naturally decreases by about 1,000 every year, and the decline becomes more rapid after age 35.
That’s where egg freezing comes into play. The doctors of the Association of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states that planned oocyte preservation is “ethically permissible” because it provides women with more autonomy over their reproductive choices.
Doctors can get a sense of how large your ovarian reserve is before egg freezing by testing the level of the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) in your body. This test looks at both your ovarian reserve and how well your body may or may not respond to medications that will stimulate the ovaries. What it can’t determine, however, is the quality of those eggs. And ultimately, you need both quantity and quality.
How many eggs do I need to freeze?
OK, so you may have a lot of eggs in your ovarian reserve — or maybe not. But how many do you actually need to freeze?
This answer varies from person to person and depends on a few individual factors:
- How old are you right now?
- Do you plan to freeze all of your eggs or do you hope to also donate some to help intended parents grow their family?
- If you think you may want to have children one day, how many do you have in mind?
This list presents a lot to think about, so let’s dive a little deeper to help you make informed decisions about the number of eggs you freeze.
The right number of eggs to freeze for your age
Different folks have different reasons for freezing their eggs. Some may be thinking about prolonging their fertility into the future. Others may be freezing some eggs but also hoping to donate some eggs to help others grow a family — something that’s done via our Split program, where you freeze for free when donating half of the eggs to a family that can’t otherwise conceive.
Either way, studies have found that the optimal number of eggs to freeze really comes down to your age. That’s because the number of eggs in the body isn’t the only thing to decrease as you get older — egg quality decreases too, and egg quality is the number one factor in determining whether an egg can eventually result in a live birth.
Here are the number of eggs you’ll want to freeze based on your age in order to obtain an optimal live birth rate:
How many eggs are retrieved?
For egg donors aged 25-29, the average number of eggs retrieved is 18, and that number drops to 16 for people age 30-35 — although it varies from person to person.
Your reproductive endocrinologist will be able to tell you the day of your retrieval how many eggs were retrieved. This number will include both mature and immature eggs, so it’s not necessarily the total number of eggs that can be frozen.
- May be partially or completely damaged or have its quality compromised in some way
- Lower chance of fertilization
- Have good egg quality
- Are more likely to be fertilized
- Can be frozen
After your retrieval, all of your eggs will be sent to an incubator to check maturity. The lab technicians will look for eggs to achieve meiosis, a kind of cell division that occurs in egg cells.
The eggs that achieve meiosis will be frozen, and you will be notified of the total number.
Should I do multiple egg retrievals?
What happens if you don’t get as many eggs as you had hoped during your egg retrieval cycle?
If you’ve undergone one round of egg freezing and the number of eggs your reproductive endocrinologist retrieved from your ovaries wasn’t as high as you’d hoped, you may want to talk to them about trying again.
There is technically no limit to the number of egg freezing rounds a person can undergo, but it’s not recommended that egg donors undergo more than six cycles. If you’re hoping to split your eggs with intended parents (donating half of the eggs retrieved) as part of our Split Program, you may find that additional retrievals help you provide the optimal amount of eggs for a live birth for you and for the intentend parents too.
Of course, you should talk to your doctor about any risks or benefits that come with additional rounds.
The right number of eggs to freeze to have multiple children
If you’re planning to have a big family one day, you may want to look at the number of eggs it’s recommended you freeze to achieve one live birth and talk to your doctor about freezing more eggs.
For example, the studies show that a woman under age 35 will need to freeze about nine eggs to achieve a 70% chance of a live birth. If you’re under age 35 now and thinking you might want to use frozen eggs to conceive twice in your future, you will want to freeze closer to 18 eggs to achieve that 70% chance each time.
That number will increase with each number of children you foresee — provided your expectation is that each child will be conceived with the use of the eggs you are currently freezing.
There is no “magic number” when it comes to freezing your eggs. Your age, your future plans, and more all come into play.
We’re here to answer any questions you might have, and the Cofertility community is also here to lend support as you consider all the important factors to make the choice that is right for you.