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Infertility 101: Freezing Your Eggs

By Jennifer Austin
 
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Jennifer Aniston is not the only woman who has ever considered putting her eggs on ice. In the last twenty-some years since its creation, egg freezing, or oocyte preservation, has soared among reproductive-aged women. The reasons -- not at all Anistonian, like the tabloids would have you believe.

Egg freezing, trailing a good 30 years behind sperm freezing, was originally created as a means of preserving fertility in female patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for various cancers. Once the science solidified and infertility doctors started seeing more reliable results, patient lists expanded to include all women who desired delayed, preserved fertility and who could foot the rather extreme bill.

Today, egg freezing is used in a number of different cases, from cancer related ovarian preservation to delayed motherhood for non-medical reasons.

While the procedure itself is fairly straightforward (involving hormone treatment to reset and then stimulate ovarian function for egg retrieval through a non-invasive vaginal procedure), the costs can be quite concerning. Treatment facilities may vary on both the cost of the work-up and egg retrieval, and on the annual storage fees for frozen eggs. A general estimate might range from $12,000 to $20,000, and then a few hundred dollars more per year for egg storage.

Also, as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) points out, oocyte cryopreservation is not an established medical treatment. Every facility's success rates for achieved pregnancy after oocyte thawing differ and depend on a number of factors, like egg quality and stage of maturation.

In general however, the ASRM quotes two different success rates depending on the type of egg freezing procedure performed: a two percent live birth rate per oocyte thawed for the slow-freeze process (more common) and a four-percent live birth rate per oocyte thawed for the vitrification process (newer and with flash freezing).

These low success rates have less to do with the actual freezing part; embryologists have that down pretty well. The main problem comes when it's time to thaw the eggs.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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