How IVF Works with Frozen Eggs

Because the IVF experience is so personalized, there are many avenues to achieving the same goal: having a healthy baby. Some couples choose to undergo IVF using frozen eggs. Whether you choose to use your own frozen eggs, or frozen eggs from a donor, the IVF process is slightly different when going this route.

That’s because when using frozen eggs, you won’t have to undergo the egg retrieval process when it comes time to fertilize eggs. For this reason, IVF with frozen eggs can cut down some of the cycle length, but you should know that it doesn’t necessarily eliminate many of the costs. Depending on whether you are using your own frozen eggs or donor eggs, the cost can

Reasons for considering IVF with frozen eggs

Choosing to undergo IVF comes with a lot of decisions — one of the largest being whether you’ll use your own eggs and sperm, or that of a donor. Whichever you choose, you’ll also want to consider using fresh or frozen eggs.

In recent years, more women have chosen to freeze their eggs as a backup plan for starting a family, or as a way to ensure they can still conceive after undergoing intensive medical procedures such as chemotherapy or radiation. Freezing eggs are at their peak quality in your 20s and early 30s allows women to conceive more easily than they might naturally as they get older or following serious health issues. And in situations where women face fertility difficulties, using frozen donor eggs is one way to start a family even if their own eggs are not viable.

Using frozen eggs in the IVF process also has some benefits over fresh eggs. First, it can drastically speed up the IVF timeline, sometimes cutting down several months. That’s because eggs are available almost immediately — they just need to be removed from storage and thawed, unlike fresh eggs that must be matured and retrieved from the patient or a selected donor.

Frozen eggs also give more choice to individuals and couples who are considering donor eggs; since eggs can be stored indefinitely, there’s a larger pool of eggs available compared to the options for couples who are considering only fresh eggs.

Here’s how IVF works when using frozen eggs

To understand how IVF works with frozen eggs, let’s start at the beginning: the initial egg retrieval. If you choose to freeze your own eggs, you’ll likely undergo a treatment plan similar to the early stages of IVF.

First, a fertility specialist will meet with you to determine why you’d like to preserve and store your eggs, followed by a thorough evaluation of your reproductive health. From there, you may be assigned several weeks of birth control pills to help regulate your cycle in preparation for egg retrieval. About two weeks before eggs are retrieved from your ovaries, fertility specialists will prescribe you a course of hormones — a set of injections you’ll need to take for nine to 10 day — that help stimulate the follicles in your ovaries. These injections will help your body to quickly mature a batch of eggs.

When a doctor determines that your eggs are mature, you’ll undergo the retrieval process. This procedure is quick, lasting only about 15 to 20 minutes. You’ll be sedated when doctors use a needle to withdraw several mature eggs from your ovaries — usually between 10 and 20 eggs at one time — which are promptly transferred to a laboratory for storage.

Eggs are prepared for freezing, and then chilled using liquid nitrogen. They’ll be kept at around -196 degrees Celsius, and can be stored for an indefinite amount of time. Some doctors have successfully used eggs that have been in storage for 10 years, so there’s no set rule on how long frozen eggs are viable.

Whenever you’re ready to undergo IVF, you’ll begin preparing your body for the soon-to-be fertilized eggs. This usually requires you to take estrogen and progesterone hormones (some orally, some through injections), to create a uterine environment that can support future embryos.

During this time, your frozen eggs are removed from storage and thawed. Partner or donor-supplied sperm is then collected and used to fertilize your now thawed eggs — a process that’s called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI. ICSI is a recommended form of fertilization that allows doctors to directly inject sperm into the egg, making fertilization more likely. That’s because eggs can slightly harden after freezing, making it difficult for sperm to penetrate and fertilize as easily as they would with fresh eggs.

Within three to five days, fertilized eggs will develop into embryos, which can be transferred to your uterus just as they would in any other IVF cycle. If successful, embryos that embed into the uterus will be on their way to developing — what doctors would call a successful round of IVF.

IVF is slightly different if you use frozen donor eggs

If you choose to use frozen donor eggs instead of your own, you’ll still experience much of the IVF process described above — except that you won’t have to undergo the egg retrieval process. Instead, after selecting your donor eggs, you’ll begin to take fertility hormones to prepare your body for implantation. From there, you’ll undergo the same process. If you choose to use frozen donor eggs, you may find there are quite a few benefits. First, you’ll speed up the IVF timeline by several weeks to months because you won’t be undergoing egg retrieval. Secondly, choosing frozen donor eggs gives you a larger selection, meaning that because there’s less of a time crunch when working with frozen eggs, you’ll have more donors to choose from.

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What to know about the cost of IVF with frozen eggs

How much you spend on IVF with frozen eggs really depends on whether you are using your own eggs or frozen donor eggs. While there’s no set cost for egg freezing or IVF, you can expect to find prices ranging from $10,000 and $20,000. There are a variety of factors that greatly impact cost, though whether you choose to use frozen donor eggs or your own frozen eggs is the largest factor.

If you choose to undergo IVF with your own frozen eggs, be aware that you’ll need to pay for the cost of egg retrieval upfront. That’s because you are essentially breaking the IVF process into two segments — egg retrieval now, and thawing, preparation, and fertilization whenever you’re ready to conceive. Freezing your eggs can cost upwards of $10,000, which usually accounts for the procedure but not necessarily the annual cost of storing your eggs (on average between $500 and $800 per year). Whenever you’re ready to use your eggs, you’ll also pay for the thawing process, which can range between $3,000 and $7,000, along with the remainder of the IVF procedure.

Using frozen donor eggs can reduce some of the cost because you won’t be paying for annual storage fees. Though, you still will need to pay for the thawing procedure, as well as the cost of fertilization and IVF.