The Truth About Egg Freezing

Pregnant WomanFertility preservation – or, as it’s popularly known, egg freezing — has recently received a burst in media attention. Since the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) endorsed oocyte (egg) cryopreservation (freezing) as no longer experimental in October of 2012, the options for women desiring to delay childbearing have expanded.

Who Should Consider Egg Freezing?

ASRM recommends oocyte cryopreservation for fertility preservation for specific indications, namely to preserve fertility potential prior to gonadotoxic treatment for cancer or other medical conditions, among women at risk for premature ovarian failure, and among women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) who prefer not to freeze embryos. ASRM recommends thorough patient counseling prior to elective cryopreservation to defer childbearing for social reasons and specifically states that “data on the safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and emotional risks of elective oocyte cryopreservation are insufficient to recommend elective oocyte cryopreservation.” While egg freezing is not universally recommended for all single women, the decision to freeze eggs may be a good option for certain women who have received thorough counseling from a reproductive endocrinologist.

What Does Egg Freezing Involve?

The process is very similar to IVF. Oocyte cryopreservation requires daily injectable medications over a 2-3 week period to first suppress the brain’s signal to the ovary, and then to stimulate the ovary to “superovulate” to recruit 10-20 eggs, if possible. During the approximately 10 days of stimulation, the patient comes to the clinic around 5 times for a blood test and pelvic ultrasound to monitor the ovaries’ response to the medications. Once the eggs are ready, the patient undergoes an egg retrieval, which is a 30 minute outpatient procedure. For IVF, the eggs are fertilized with sperm, and then an embryo is transferred to the uterus. For egg freezing, the eggs are frozen after the retrieval.

What is the Chance of Successful Pregnancy after Egg Freezing?

As with all assisted reproductive technology procedures, the success of fertility treatments correlates to a woman’s age at the time of treatment. In general, the younger the woman is, the better chance she has of conceiving. Pregnancy outcomes of IVF vary by clinic and can be found on the CDC website. At the Emory Reproductive Center, we’re proud to report that our rates consistently exceed the national average. Pregnancy outcomes after egg freezing are a little less predictable, because the technology to rapidly freeze eggs is relatively new. In general, trials to date suggest that over 90% of frozen eggs will survive the thawing process and that pregnancy rates should be comparable to those using fresh eggs. Every 6 to 7 frozen eggs should allow for one embryo transfer with a chance of pregnancy dependent on the female partner’s age at the time of egg freezing. This chance can be as high as 60 to 70% in a female who froze her eggs when she was younger than 35 years old; however, the chance of pregnancy decreases with advancing female age at the time of freezing.

Does the Emory Reproductive Center Offer Egg Freezing?

Yes! We routinely offer and perform oocyte cryopreservation for fertility preservation due to medical conditions and social reasons. We would be happy to discuss your personal situation with you in more detail. To schedule a new patient visit, please call (404) 778-3401, and select option 1 for the Emory Reproductive Center.

What is the Cost of Egg Freezing?

The out-of-pocket cost for oocyte cryopreservation varies based on your insurance. In general, the cost of the ovarian stimulation and monitoring, egg retrieval, and freezing is approximately $4,000. The cost of medications can vary, depending upon the patient’s dose and responsiveness to them. Additionally, if a patient later chooses to thaw and fertilize their eggs to undergo an embryo transfer, they will incur the cost of those procedures, as well, which can currently run about $5,000.

About Dr. Jennifer Kawwass

Kawwass headshotJennifer Kawwass, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine and a Guest Researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she is a member of the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Team. Dr. Kawwass sees patients at the Emory Reproductive Center at Emory University Hospital Midtown where she serves as the Donor Egg Program Director. Her clinical interests include infertility, in vitro fertilization, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, and fertility preservation. Dr. Kawwass is originally from Virginia Beach. She attended Davidson College, University of Virginia Medical School, and subsequently completed both her Ob/Gyn Residency and REI Fellowship at Emory University School of Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children, running, and visiting her family at the beach.

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