Ovia Fertility helps you track your unique cycle and understand your body better. If you don’t have the Ovia Fertility and Cycle Tracker app, you can download it here.
While medicine may have expanded fertility options, it can feel like there are so many more decisions to make about when to start a family or how to preserve fertility. If you’re wondering: should I freeze my eggs? you’ve come to the right place. Make sense of egg freezing and why it might be an option to consider.
What Is egg freezing?
Known in official medical circles as mature oocyte cryopreservation (OC), egg freezing is the process by which a doctor takes eggs (oocytes) from your ovaries. These eggs can then be frozen and stored until you decide you’re ready to use them. At that point they are thawed, mixed with sperm in a laboratory, and re-inserted into your uterus (womb) through your cervix, hopefully leading to pregnancy.
Who’s freezing their eggs in the U.S.?
Nationally, the number of egg freezing cycles increases every year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports there were more than 22,000 egg freezing cycles in 2019, up from around 18,000 in 2018 and 14,500 in 2017.
- It’s becoming more common for people under the age of 35 years to preserve their fertility through egg freezing.
- White patients freeze their eggs more than people of color, although more minority groups are freezing their eggs, especially Asian women.
- University-educated or professional people are more likely to pursue elective egg freezing.
Why might you want to freeze your eggs?
People choose to press pause on becoming a parent or growing their family for many reasons. Elective egg freezing is now safer, more affordable, and more common. Some of the reasons people give for choosing electively to freeze their eggs include:
- Not being in a relationship with a partner they want to parent with
- Wanting to be financially stable before starting a family
- Working in a demanding career where being pregnant could come at a professional cost
- Having access to employer-subsidized egg freezing benefits
Other people may turn to egg freezing because they have a medical condition that threatens their future fertility. One out of five women in one study reported choosing egg freezing because of underlying health conditions. Women and their health care providers may consider egg freezing if they:
- Have a condition impacting fertility such as sickle cell anemia, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, or premature ovarian failure
- Have a cancer diagnosis or other illness and need to receive chemotherapy or radiation that could harm their ovaries
Egg freezing also helps LGBTQ+ people keep their parenting options open. Gender-affirming surgery or medical treatments can limit fertility so some transgender men choose egg freezing before beginning their transition.
When should I freeze my eggs?
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), elective egg freezing is most successful for women younger than 38 years. The more eggs you can harvest and freeze, the better your chances for pregnancy down the road. As you get older, it gets harder to harvest enough high-quality eggs. Here’s what the science tells us:
- Egg quality peaks between 16 and 28 years old
- Women in their mid-reproductive years (29 to 37 years old) produce enough high-quality eggs to make egg freezing cost effective
- People who freeze their eggs before age 34 have the highest overall live birth rates.
- One 2015 study found that the biggest difference in live birth rates between people who did and didn’t freeze their eggs was at age 37. At younger ages, the differences in live birth rates in people who did and did not freeze their eggs were smaller.
- There is little benefit (no comparative increase in the number of live births) for women ages 25-30 to freeze their eggs
From a straight biological perspective, the younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the better your chances for good egg quality and number harvested.
Egg freezing and deciding what’s right for you
Decisions about fertility and parenting are individual and personal — egg freezing is no different. It can be helpful to think of egg freezing as an insurance plan rather than a guarantee for a baby. It is a way to increase your chances of being able to be a parent, without being limited by your biological clock or life circumstances. That said, it can be very expensive and so is not a good option for everyone.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Katler QS, Shandley LM, Hipp HS, Kawwass JF. National egg-freezing trends: cycle and patient characteristics with a focus on race/ethnicity. Fertil Steril. 2021 Aug;116(2):528-537. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2021.02.032. Epub 2021 Mar 30. PMID: 33795141.
- Inhorn MC, Birenbaum-Carmeli D, Birger J, Westphal LM, Doyle J, Gleicher N, Meirow D, Dirnfeld M, Seidman D, Kahane A, Patrizio P. Elective egg freezing and its underlying socio-demography: a binational analysis with global implications. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018 Jul 23;16(1):70. doi: 10.1186/s12958-018-0389-z. PMID: 30037349; PMCID: PMC6056999.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Egg Freezing.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. April 23, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/egg-freezing/about/pac-20384556.
- “Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) National Data.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC. 2019. https://nccd.cdc.gov/drh_art/rdPage.aspx?rdReport=DRH_ART.ClinicInfo&ClinicId=31&ShowNational=0.
- Kylie Baldwin, Lorraine Culley, Nicky Hudson & Helene Mitchell (2019) Running out of time: exploring women’s motivations for social egg freezing, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 40:2, 166-173, DOI: 10.1080/0167482X.2018.1460352
- Amato, Paula. “Fertility Options for Transgender Persons.” UCSF Transgender Care. University of California, San Francisco. June 17, 2016. https://transcare.ucsf.edu/guidelines/fertility.
- “Can I Freeze My Eggs to Use Later If I’m Not Sick?” ReproductiveFacts.org. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. 2014. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/can-i-freeze-my-eggs-to-use-later-if-im-not-sick/.
- Mesen, Tolga B et al. “Optimal timing for elective egg freezing.” Fertility and sterility vol. 103,6 (2015): 1551-6.e1-4. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.03.002