With increasing awareness of the natural age-related decline in female fertility, combined with the trend of women having children later in life, egg freezing has become a serious consideration for some women in their late 20s into their 30s. For many, our prime reproductive years coincide with the season of life where education and career development are the primary focus. For others, it’s the lack of the right partner that drives the decision to freeze eggs, as a 2018 study found. Given that female fertility – reflected in the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries – declines rapidly after mid-30s, the possibility of extending the fertility window is an attractive one.
One problem women face when considering egg freezing is the sheer quantity of information to weed through. If you are feeling overwhelmed with too much information, you are not alone. The internet has democratized information access, and there are publicly funded biomedical information resources like PubMed, but it’s a lot of work to separate science-based, unbiased, up-to-date information from subtle – or not so subtle – commercial push and opinions based on outdated information and fear. Today, we give you a few pointers on how to approach egg freezing, and introduce a fantastic resource, Everything: Egg Freezing, a comprehensive and approachable guide that distills the findings from over 3,000 research studies, written by two women who went through the process themselves.
How popular is egg freezing?
In the United States, just under 10,000 egg freezing cycles were performed in 2017, according to the Society for Reproductive Technology (SART), a professional organization that keeps track of this data. In two years, it grew by over 60% to 16,194 egg freezing cycles. (For context, this represents about 5.5% of all assisted reproductive technology cycles, a vast majority of them IVF, performed in that year.) This exponential growth is forecast to continue in the near future: FertilityIQ projected the egg freezing “market” to further grow by 25% year over year in 2020 and 2021, though with the COVID-19 pandemic, all bets are off. (For example, while fertility rates have dropped in many countries, one clinic in New York City reported a 41% increase in egg freezing cycles during the pandemic, compared to the same period the year before.)
How expensive is egg freezing?
The cost of egg freezing depends on the fertility clinic, but in the US, the cost of one cycle of egg freezing ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. Most women need more than one cycle to retrieve enough eggs so they can expect a reasonable pregnancy chance from the eggs they freeze, so even at the lower end of the cost scale, the typical cost of egg freezing is not thousands, but tens of thousands of dollars. The storage fees for the frozen eggs can also add up over the years, at an average of $500-600/year.
Some women in the US, faced with high cost of egg freezing, travel to other countries, like those in the Caribbean or Spain, the Czech Republic or South Africa, where Jodi, our CEO, froze her eggs, for lower cost and comparable outcomes.
How can I maximize my chance of success with egg freezing?
Women who consider egg freezing tend to be planners and optimizers. Add to that the high level of commitment required for egg freezing, be it financial, time or emotional, it’s no surprise that women look for ways to maximize the chance of egg freezing success.
Talk to multiple doctors and fertility clinics to find the right fit.
- Start with your OBGYN doctor. They might be able to even refer you to a fertility clinic they know to be competent.
- If you are in your 30s and your OBGYN doctor isn’t initiating a conversation with you about your family/fertility plan, that should concern you. You can always bring up the topic and ask to have your AMH levels measured (AMH, one of the most important reproductive hormones, is an indicator of your ovarian reserve, or how many good-quality eggs you have left in your ovaries). If they dismiss your concerns, it might be time to switch to a different doctor who can guide you on this issue.
- Talk to multiple fertility clinics offering egg freezing. Some clinics let you consult a physician from the beginning, while others have you start with a coordinator, who may or may not be a clinically qualified professional.
- Take notes, and pay attention to how they frame success – is it about the likelihood of you actually having a baby with the eggs you freeze, or is it more about how many eggs they can freeze for you? These two are related, but not exactly the same. Everything: Egg Freezing has a comprehensive list of questions to consider yourself, and ask the fertility clinics, plus a handy clinic comparison tool.
Prepare your body for best chance of success.
- Focus on your egg health. Egg quality accounts for 95% of the health of the early-stage embryo, which determines how likely it is to get pregnant with the particular egg.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Rather than focus on a handful of supposedly fertility-enhancing foods, try to follow a healthy eating pattern with a wide range of foods. Mediterranean and anti-inflammatory diets – or other eating patters with similar attributes - have been found to support not only fertility but also systemic and emotional health.
- Take supplements for egg quality, especially if you know you are deficient. What to take will depend on your age, your diet and other factors, but in general, take prenatal vitamins and CoQ10. If you are over 35, taking a small amount of DHEA can also replenish your ovaries with androgens, which are necessary for healthy egg development.
- Stay active. It also helps with your overall wellbeing.
- Take steps to get enough high-quality sleep.
And our last, best tip: Read Everything: Egg Freezing.
Written by Brittany Hawkins and Catherine Hendy, two women who went through the process themselves, Everything: Egg Freezing is a truly comprehensive guide to egg freezing. Immersing themselves in 3,000 research studies and speaking with countless fertility specialists, registered dietitians and other healthcare professionals, Brittany and Catherine answer virtually all questions you’d ever think to ask about egg freezing, and then some. It’s full of actionable tips, step-by-step guide and easily digestible science.
If you have questions like these, the book is for you:
- How do I decide if egg freezing is right for me?
- What can I realistically expect from freezing my eggs?
- What are some of the negative aspects that fertility clinics might not tell me about egg freezing?
- How do I choose the right doctor? The right fertility clinic?
- How do I prepare financially for egg freezing?
- How do I prepare my body for best results? What should I eat? What should I avoid?
- What is it like to go through ovarian stimulation for egg freezing?
Then, head to ELANZA Wellness, where Brittany and Catherine have put together amazing resources for women considering egg freezing and are offering them for free. This includes everything from the aforementioned clinic comparison tool to supplements checklist and fertility forecast worksheet. Many of the advice in the book, as well as the resources, are applicable to women who are simply trying to conceive, rather than freeze their eggs, as underlying principles of egg health is the same.
Please reach out with questions – we will be hosting a Q&A session with Brittany and Catherine in a few weeks, and would love to hear from our community what they’d like to hear from these two amazing women.