Does egg freezing work?

Medical contribution by Joseph Doyle, M.D.

Joseph Doyle, M.D., is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Dr. Doyle is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, for which he has developed education modules and served as an ad hoc reviewer, and the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. He sees patients at SGF’s Rockville, Maryland office. 

The tick-tock of the biological clock has long been a source of stress for women who envision children in their futures. Thanks to advancements in reproductive science, women who want children (just not right now) have options. Through egg freezing, a snooze alarm of sorts is set to take off some of the pregnancy-now pressure off, allowing women to pursue family growth plans when they’re ready to do so.

The concept of egg freezing isn’t a new one. In fact, the first baby conceived using a frozen egg was born over 30 years ago, in 1986. But much has changed since this procedural first. At Shady Grove Fertility alone, we have seen an increase in the number of women seeking egg freezing since 2013. If you’re considering preserving your fertility via egg freezing, fully exploring the likely outcomes of the procedure is a solid, first step.

Dr. Joseph Doyle of our Rockville, MD office regularly works with patients who want to freeze their eggs, guiding them through the egg retrieval and preservation process and again when they are ready to thaw and fertilize their preserved eggs. Today, he walks us through some of the egg-freezing-related statistics that potential patients should consider when deciding when and if to pursue this procedure.

Why are so many more women freezing their eggs than ever before?

Dr. Doyle: While egg freezing has been possible for quite some time, it’s only recently become more commonplace. These days, more women are likely to have friends, family members, or coworkers who have undergone egg cryopreservation, thereby increasing the likelihood of consideration and interest.

To that end, it wasn’t until recently that our SGF team started promoting egg freezing. We want what’s best for the women who come to us and didn’t want to push them towards egg freezing until we had a dependable number of thaw outcomes that made us confident in this procedure as a viable fertility preservation option.

What’s the ideal age for egg freezing?

Dr. Doyle: We recommend that women consider egg freezing in their mid-thirties. It’s essential not to wait too long to initiate the freezing process, as the older you get, the more eggs you’ll need to freeze to get the same probability of pregnancy. We also caution patients against freezing eggs too early as the earlier you freeze, the less likely you are to end up using your frozen eggs.

How long do women usually wait before returning to use their eggs?

Dr. Doyle: Our data suggests that women are waiting, on average, 2-4 years after freezing their eggs before returning to use them. However, we need to view this data contextually. While we have frozen eggs for nearly 2,000 patients, around 498 patients have returned to thaw their eggs so far. As more of these women return to use their eggs, we expect the average time between egg freezing and egg use to continue to increase.

What is the likelihood that I will be able to have a baby using my frozen eggs?

Dr. Doyle: Freezing your eggs does not guarantee that you will be able to have a baby one day, but it does offer you a good chance of growing your family when you’re ready. Your chance is particularly strong if you follow suggested freezing guidelines, including freezing between 15 and 30 eggs—the exact number depends on your age.

Our data shows that women under the age of 38 have a 70 to 80 percent likelihood of taking home a baby if they freeze between 15 and 20 eggs. We’ve also found that 84 percent of all frozen eggs will survive our thawing process. And, of the surviving eggs, 71 percent will become successfully fertilized.

Another way of looking at this is the likelihood of a live birth per egg thaw cycle. Reviewing our statistics for women under 38 years old, between 40 to 45 percent of women will have a live birth if they thaw 8 to 9 eggs. At first glance, this may seem low, but it’s important to keep in mind that this figure represents your rate of success per thaw cycle, not your rate of success per batch of frozen eggs. We typically do not thaw all of the eggs a patient has frozen at once. Though there are different strategies in approaching this, we [generally] thaw around 10 eggs per round.

What if I want more than one baby?

Dr. Doyle: The primary goal of egg freezing is to ensure the birth of one healthy child; however, we certainly have had individuals who have had more than one child using their frozen eggs. In fact, 38 percent of all SGF egg-freezing patients end up with extra embryos each thaw cycle. Patients with additional embryos have, on average, three additional embryos that they can freeze and use for later attempts at pregnancy.

Is there any guarantee I’ll end up with a baby?

Dr. Doyle: While there is no guarantee you’ll be able to have a baby — even if you freeze your eggs — we do offer a financial guarantee to our patients through our Shared Risk 100% Refund Program for Returning Egg Freezing Patients.

As we have continued to gather data daily on egg thawing, we have grown increasingly confident in this procedure. And we back this confidence with a money-back guarantee, a program that we call Shared Risk. Patients who participate in our Shared Risk 100% Refund Program can receive their money back should their attempts at having a child using their frozen eggs prove unsuccessful. As with any SGF treatment plan, our goal is for you to take home a baby, and we do everything we can to help you grow your family—when the timing is right for you.

To learn more about egg freezing or to schedule an appointment, call 1-877-411-9292 to speak with a new patient liaison.

This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of February 2020.