When it comes to fertility preservation, you may already know that age matters. The number of eggs you are ultimately able to freeze will largely depend on how old you are and how well you respond to ovarian stimulation medications during IVF.
But did you know it may be helpful to go into the egg-freezing process with some idea of how many children you’d like to have one day, ideally? While this number doesn’t have to be set in stone (because let’s be real, plans change), it can help you and your team of doctors come up with a goal for how many eggs to attempt to retrieve and freeze to set you up for success in the future.
So, how many eggs should you freeze to give yourself the best possible chance of one or more healthy pregnancies down the road? Let’s dig in.
At what age should you freeze your eggs?
As women age, both their egg quantity and quality gradually decline, which is why at a certain point, it becomes important to have an honest conversation with yourself about your fertility and future family-building plans.
Dr. Catha Fischer, the Medical Director at Spring Fertility in NYC, explains, “Women often want to [freeze their eggs] because it allows them to take a proactive step towards their future fertility goals. I advise any woman who is thinking about her future fertility and has questions or concerns about it to see a fertility specialist.”
Even if you’re not ready to take the leap just yet, asking your OB/GYN or fertility specialist for a full fertility evaluation can be a proactive first step toward understanding your reproductive potential and fertility preservation options.
Understanding the egg-freezing process
When (and if) you do decide the time is right to freeze your eggs, it can be helpful to know that most egg-freezing cycles only take about 10 to 12 days to develop the follicles. During that period, you will self-administer hormone injections at home, twice a day, to stimulate egg production in your ovaries.
Your team of specialists will closely monitor you during the entire process to determine how much medication you can safely take to produce as many eggs as possible in a cycle.
“Over the 10-12 days, there will typically be four to five ultrasounds and blood draws to assess how the cycle is progressing. At Spring Fertility, these ultrasounds are conducted by your doctor, so you can discuss what’s going on and how you are feeling. These frequent check-ins increase transparency and decrease anxiety for our patients,” explains Dr. Fischer.
If you tolerate the medication well, then a third injection will typically be added to your daily dosage after about a week.
When the follicles seem large enough to house mature eggs, your doctor will “trigger” their release. Approximately 36 hours later, an egg retrieval is completed.
“Egg retrievals are outpatient procedures and take just 15-20 minutes. At Spring Fertility, you are asleep with an anesthesiologist in the room during the whole process. Immediately after the procedure, we will tell you how many eggs were retrieved, and then one to two hours later, we will let you know how many we can freeze,” says Dr. Fischer.
Should you consider doing more than one egg-freezing cycle?
The decision to undergo more than one egg-freezing cycle really depends on your age, your ovarian reserve, and your tolerance to the stimulation medication.
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For example, women 35 years of age or older or women with fertility issues may only produce five to six eggs per egg-freezing cycle while healthy, younger women may produce up to 20 eggs in just one cycle.
According to Dr. Fischer, there really is no magic number of eggs a woman needs to freeze and no magic age by which she needs to do it.
“The ideal number of eggs ultimately depends on your goal of the fertility preservation cycle. Some women freeze eggs knowing they will use them in the future and some women freeze eggs as a contingency plan. So, the truth is there is no ideal exact number, but as a general rule: the more eggs that are frozen, the higher the chance they turn into a pregnancy in the future,” explains Dr. Fischer.
While there is no “magic number,” as Dr. Fischer says, there are certainly commonly suggested numbers based on your age that will increase your chances of a successful pregnancy down the line. For instance, women under the age of 35 are generally advised to freeze 20 eggs for an 85% chance of having one child, while women 38-40 should freeze 30 eggs for a 75% chance of having one child.
Spring Fertility has developed an “egg calculator” as a tool to help counsel individuals on their individual likelihood of success based on age and the number of eggs they’re expected to retrieve.
As with all things regarding fertility, these numbers are not guarantees, but being informed and equipped with as much information as possible can help you better plan for the family you want to have — even if that time is not right now.