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4 Things You Need To Know About Freezing Your Eggs

06/24/2015 09:00 am ET | Updated Jun 24, 2015
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More women are doing it. Some companies are paying for it. Just make sure you have all the facts before putting your eggs on ice.

By Sarah Z. Wexler

Let's get this out of the way: Freezing your eggs will be a serious drain on your bank account. While a few employers, Facebook and Apple among them, are starting to help cover the bill, it's still a steep buy-in for most women. But with the egg-freezing process becoming more effective, the investment may be a sound one if you need to delay childbearing for work, relationship, or health reasons. Want to know more? Good for you. "Most patients don't ask a lot of questions before starting the process," says Elizabeth Barbieri, MD, a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Oregon Reproductive Medicine. "But given the emotional, physical and financial investment, it's important to be fully informed -- on everything from finding the right clinic to understanding your odds of having a successful pregnancy down the road." Here, we clear up a few common misconceptions.

1. Timing

If you thought...It's OK to wait until you're near the end of your baby-making years to freeze your eggs.

The truth is...The sooner you freeze, the better. Not only do younger women generally have more eggs (egg loss accelerates by the late 30s), but the eggs they have are of higher quality.

2. Cost

If you thought...You'd need about $10,000 to cover the whole process.

The truth is...Expect to pay a lot more. Initial blood work can run up to $700, while the procedure itself can range from $6,000 to $10,000, with extra fees for rent to store harvested eggs ($300 to $1,500-plus a year) and high out-of-pocket expenses for medication not covered by insurance. Then there's the cost of having the eggs fertilized and implanted when you're ready, which can run in the thousands.

3. Technology

If you thought...All clinics rely on the same egg-freezing method.

The truth is...At first, clinics used a process called slow freeze, but it had one major downside: Ice crystals could form in the eggs during freezing or thawing, damaging the cells and rendering the eggs useless. Now a more reliable method, called vitrification, has become the gold standard. Eggs are cooled to sub-zero temps within seconds. At that speed ice crystals are far less likely to form; as a result, the survival rate for eggs can be as high as 97 percent. Yet some clinics still use the slow-freeze method, so know what you're getting.

4. Success Rate

If you thought...The odds of having a baby with frozen eggs are pretty high.

The truth is...There are no guarantees. According to a 2013 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility, a 30-year-old woman who freezes her eggs via vitrification and later thaws four of them has roughly a 23 percent likelihood of giving birth. For a 37-year-old woman, her chances drop to about 15 percent. Before you decide to proceed with the process, ask your clinic for their age-specific stats.

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