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If you're thinking about freezing your eggs and you've started to gather information about it, you're probably coming across a lot of information. This can definitely be overwhelming but there’s no need to panic! We're here to help you figure out if egg freezing is the right choice for you, no matter what age you are.

What is egg freezing?

Before we dive further into this topic, what is egg freezing? Egg freezing, known as oocyte cryopreservation in the medical world, is a technique used to preserve someone’s fertility.  Eggs are collected from the ovaries and frozen so they can be used in the future. If the person is unable to get pregnant naturally, the eggs are unfrozen and used in an assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure, like in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Whether you know you want to have kids or you aren’t sure and want to give yourself more time to figure it out, think of egg freezing as a way to keep your options open for the future.

Should I freeze my eggs?

There are many, many reasons why someone might choose to freeze their eggs but the decision is a deeply personal one that requires some careful consideration. When making that decision though, it’s important to know that egg freezing is not an “insurance policy” for your fertility. While egg freezing can take some of the stress of having a baby right now off your shoulders, it is not a guarantee that you’ll have a baby in the future. 

Why not? Well, not all the eggs that get frozen will actually be viable. It’s expected that some eggs will not survive the warming process. In addition, the chances of the eggs that do survive being successfully fertilized depends partially on how old you were when you froze them (more on this later). Beyond that, fertility and pregnancy risks change with age. If you freeze your eggs at 30 and use them when you're 40, you'll have to deal with the realities of pregnancy at 40.

This is not to sway your decision one way or another. Ultimately, only you and your doctor can decide if egg freezing is the right decision for you. But it's important to go in knowing that it’s not meant to be a done deal.

Pros of egg freezing

Ok, now that we’ve gone through the basics, let’s discuss the pros and cons.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of freezing your eggs is the fact that it lowers the risk of having children with genetic abnormalities associated with ovarian aneuploidy. Ovarian aneuploidy refers to when an egg has an abnormal number of chromosomes which leads to an abnormal pregnancy. Most people are born with 46 total chromosomes (23 pairs). The most common aneuploidy risk seen by far is Down syndrome. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. The medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is “trisomy” so Down syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21. Freezing your eggs at a younger age decreases (but does not totally eliminate) the risk of an abnormal number of chromosomes.

Another benefit of egg freezing is that it puts the decision-making power entirely in your hands. Whether you’re freezing your eggs because you want to focus on your career or you’re getting a medical treatment that may affect your fertility later on or you’re waiting to find the right partner, freezing your eggs allows you to preserve some of your fertility independently. 

Egg freezing also gives you options in terms of having your own biological children. Of course, there is the obvious option of having the eggs fertilized and the embryos implanted into your uterus. But you also have the option of having those embryos implanted into a gestational carrier or into your partner if they have uterus. 

Finally, freezing your eggs does not affect your ability to get pregnant naturally. The egg freezing process and retrieval procedure simply rescue eggs that would have died with your next menstrual cycle. This means it does not affect your ovarian reserve (the number of eggs in your ovaries). Once you’ve completed the full process, your body will continue to ovulate and release an egg each month like normal.  

Cons of egg freezing

Now, let’s talk about the disadvantages of egg freezing. 

The most obvious downside is the cost. While some insurance plans may cover egg freezing, this isn’t the case most of the time. The out-of-pocket cost of egg freezing varies but it can be up to $20,000 depending on where you are and which clinic you use. This typically includes bloodwork, medications, ultrasounds, and the egg retrieval procedure. This does not include the annual storage fee (which can be up to $800 per year) and any follow-up procedures if you end up using those eggs. Learn how you can freeze for free with Freeze by Co

The next thing to consider is the hormone medications and egg retrieval process themselves. These medicines not only require injecting yourself (or having a partner or friend do it) but they can have some not-so-fun side effects. These can include fatigue, nausea, bloating, headaches, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, and irritability. A severe risk of hormone medications is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). This condition can lead to blood clots, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, dehydration and vomiting. It may even require admission to the hospital to manage. Thankfully, OHSS is rare nowadays, affecting only up to 2% of patients.

The egg retrieval process is quick and the most common symptoms afterwards are pelvic or abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, and spotting. The main concern here is the time you need. One typical egg-freezing cycle can range from 10 to 14 days and during that time you'll be attending doctor appointments almost daily to make sure your eggs are maturing correctly.

If you’re taking any gender-affirming hormones like testosterone, you may need to take a break in order to freeze your eggs. One study showed that transgender men who used gender-affirming hormones and stopped a few months before fertility treatments ended up with the same number of eggs as cis women. But getting off hormones can be hard and could trigger gender dysphoria so the best option is to freeze eggs before transitioning if at all possible.

No one likes to be the bearer of bad news but this is an important one. Egg freezing may mean your eggs stay the same age forever but unfortunately, your body does not. As you age, the risks of pregnancy increase for both you and your potential child. These risks include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, c-section delivery, preterm delivery of a baby with low birth weight and other risks related to the pregnancy being IVF. However, these risks vary widely depending on many other factors. 

One final caveat to remember is that egg freezing does not guarantee a live birth. It’s likely that not all eggs will survive the thawing process. Some will not fertilize. Others fertilize abnormally, and still others don’t implant successfully in the uterus. A large study at NYU in July 2022 showed a 39% live birth rate for people who used their frozen eggs. The two factors that affected the success rates the most were age at the time of egg freezing and the number of eggs thawed. Specifically, the live birth rate was over 50% for people who thawed at least 20 eggs or who were under 38 when they froze their eggs. Which brings us to our next question: what age is best for egg freezing? 

When should I freeze my eggs? 

Let me start by saying that there is no perfect age at which to freeze your eggs. However, the TL;DR is that the younger you can do it, the better. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), an optimal time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s and early 30s, while you have a higher ovarian reserve and eggs are healthier. So whether you’re 25 or 35, you can absolutely freeze your eggs!

A large 2020 study at a fertility clinic that specializes in this area looked at egg freezing cycles for over 1,200 people. It compared the average number of eggs people of different ages were able to freeze versus the “optimal” or goal number of eggs they should freeze. This goal number was based on how many eggs would give them a 70% live birth rate after doing 1 or 2 egg freezing cycles (this rate is calculated using some other numbers and it typically goes up as we age to make up for the lower number of healthy eggs). 

The study found that younger people, unsurprisingly, have an easier time freezing the goal number of eggs in one cycle. As people aged, they needed multiple egg freezing cycles to reach that goal number.

These findings bring up a common question–is it worth freezing eggs after age 35? Well, it depends. The ASRM does not recommend egg freezing for people older than 38, but this isn’t a strict cutoff. Everyone’s fertility goes down at a different rate. Having your fertility hormones checked can sometimes help you and your doctor get a general idea of what your ovarian reserve is. This can better help you decide if egg freezing is right for you.

Egg freezing can be a tricky process to navigate and you are not alone when it comes to questions and concerns around it. Freeze by Co is here to help you every step of the way. With our Split program, people between 21 to 34 years old have the chance to freeze their eggs for free! In a “Split” cycle, you would donate half of the eggs retrieved to a family that’s trying to conceive and freeze the remaining half for yourself. If you’re over 34, you can still participate in the Keep program up to age 40. You would be able to freeze your eggs and keep them all for yourself, on your timeline while having access to an additional valuable resource in our support community, The Nest. This community allows you to engage with other people freezing their eggs at the exact same time! 

Regardless of which path you choose, our team will be there to guide you through the process as we work to keep your family-building options on the table.