Did you hold off on going to the doctor (for non-COVID-related reasons) during the height of the pandemic? You’re not alone. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), more than 40 percent of people surveyed said they skipped medical care in the early months of the pandemic. One medical field that didn’t see a downtick in patients? Egg freezing. There’s no organization in the U.S. that collects national data on egg freezing, but Time magazine found in January 2021 that 54 clinics across major American cities independently reported that the number of women freezing their eggs had increased year-over-year—in a year when the pandemic raged. The point is, egg freezing is becoming a more and more popular option for people who either have medical issues that could impact fertility or want to delay pregnancy for some other reason. To learn the basics on the process—from how much it costs to freeze your eggs to how likely it is to result in a healthy baby—we spoke to Dr. Lora Shahine, MD, reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific NW Fertility in Seattle and host of ‘Baby or Bust’ podcast.
How Much Does It Cost to Freeze Your Eggs? Plus, 4 Other Common Questions, Answered
1. Who should think about freezing their eggs?
Dr. Shahine tells us that anyone facing medical issues that may harm fertility (like cancer treatment or surgery for endometriosis) and anyone who wishes to delay childbearing for any reason—whether they haven’t found the right partner or they’re focusing on their career—should think about freezing their eggs if they think they’re going to want children at some point.
2. When should I freeze my eggs?
“If you’re freezing before cancer treatment or other health issues, the sooner the better.,” Dr. Shahine stresses. “If you’re freezing for fertility preservation to delay pregnancy for other reasons, there is no one perfect age: the younger you freeze eggs the higher quality and chance of success but the lower likelihood you’ll use them, and the older you freeze eggs the lower quality and increased need to freeze more eggs for success but the more likely you will need them.” She points to studies—like this one by researchers at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—that, after analyzing the cost-effectiveness of egg freezing, show that your mid-30s is likely the best time to balance cost, success and likely use or need of the eggs in the future.
3. How does the process work?
Egg freezing is just like the first half of an IVF cycle, Dr. Shahine explains. “Preparation, planning, approximately two weeks of shots to recruit and mature eggs and finally an egg retrieval under sedation—a 20-minute procedure to exact the eggs.” After the eggs are retrieved, they’re frozen. “And then when you want to get pregnant later, you finish the IVF cycle,” she continues. “So you would thaw the eggs, fertilize with sperm, create embryos, maybe test embryos and then transfer an embryo to the uterus to get pregnant.”
4. How likely is it that egg freezing will eventually result in a healthy baby?
Dr. Shahine tells us that it’s impossible to say exactly how good your chances are of having a live birth as a result of egg freezing, but emphasizes that success is dependent on factors like the age at which the eggs are frozen (younger eggs have a higher chance of success), how many eggs are frozen and the experience and quality of the IVF lab you choose. She recommends using this egg freezing calculator from doctors at Harvard Medical School, which lets you plug in your age and number of eggs and get an estimate for the number of live births predicted.
5. How much does it cost to freeze your eggs?
Unsurprisingly, the cost to freeze your eggs depends on lots of factors, from the clinic you choose and the amount of medication you need to the number of times you decide to do an egg retrieval (since the more eggs you freeze, the better chance of success when you go to use them in the future). Still, Dr. Shahine says that the most commonly quoted number is $5,000 to $10,000, but urges that folks interested in the process should ask what that fee covers, since sometimes it doesn’t take into account medication or storage costs, which, if not covered, can cost $500 to $600 per year.