Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Do you hear that? It’s that pesky biological clock ticking in your head. I’ve been there and have heard it many times. I didn’t get married until my mid-30s, and by then, the clock ticking in my head sounded like Big Ben.

But imagine if you could hit snooze on your biological clock. Thanks to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), you can accomplish that! The question is, which path is right for you?

Egg freezing is nothing new — people have been freezing their eggs for decades. However, the biggest game-changer in egg-freezing technology happened when vitrification was introduced at the turn of the twenty-first century. Before vitrification, eggs were frozen through now-outdated “slow freezing” methods, and only around 60% of eggs would survive this process.

a dozen eggs

Think of the movie The Empire Strikes Back when they freeze Han Solo. He is instantly frozen in time and kept in pristine condition for when Princess Leia saves him in the sequel.

Vitrification involves rapid freezing and the prevention of ice crystals from forming. This has shown egg survival rates have increased to over 90%. In addition to improving the option of egg freezing, vitrification has also made embryo freezing a viable option.

You may have heard recently that Anna Kendrick revealed she created frozen embryos with her toxic ex. In retrospect, she may have been better off freezing both eggs and embryos to cover all of her bases. But which option is right for you? Let’s discuss it.

The Benefits of Egg Freezing

Egg freezing entails taking fertility drugs to produce more eggs than a typical ovulation cycle. That way, more eggs will be retrieved during the IVF process and subsequently frozen. The eggs can remain in storage for as long as you want.

When you’re ready to conceive (whether on your own or once you meet that special someone), the eggs are thawed and fertilized with sperm in a lab. Then, they could be transferred into your uterus or a gestational carrier, should you work with one.

Bonus: you don’t need sperm to freeze your eggs since they’re retrieved and frozen unfertilized. You will have to start fertility medications, though, which may seem scary initially (but totally safe). From start to finish, one typical egg-freezing cycle can take between 10 and 14 days.

Basically, you can think about egg freezing like this: You made a super delicious casserole for dinner one night, but you didn’t feel like eating it the next day, or you’re about to go out of town and won’t have time to finish it all. But you don’t want it to go bad and know you’ll crave it in the future. So, you pop it in the freezer. Then you thaw it out a few weeks later when you’re ready!

Egg freezing is similar — you may want to have children in the future, but you’re not ready now, or perhaps you haven’t found a partner you’d like to start a family with yet (and I say keep those standards high and don’t settle!). So, by freezing your eggs, you buy yourself some time to continue playing the field or when you’re ready to have kids (or both).

doctor consulting with a patient

Reasons to Consider Egg Freezing

There are a lot of reasons why a person may consider egg freezing. However, the main reason people freeze their eggs is to protect their chances of getting pregnant in the future.

You might consider freezing your eggs if:

  • You think you may want kids in the future. Since we know female fertility declines with age, freezing eggs during the IVF process, especially when a person is young, can help preserve those eggs for future pregnancies.

  • You identify as transgender. If you are transgender and receiving hormone treatments, this may impact your fertility. Your fertility can also be affected if you undergo any gender reassignment procedures.

  • You are undergoing cancer treatment. Some medical treatments, including those for cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can affect your fertility. In fact, many cancer patients may be encouraged to freeze their eggs before beginning treatment to preserve their fertility after treatment.

  • Religious reasons. When undergoing IVF, some people prefer egg freezing to embryo freezing for religious or ethical reasons.

The Argument For Embryo Freezing

Unlike egg freezing, embryo freezing involves the in-vitro fertilization process. Everything would be exactly the same as above, except that once the eggs are retrieved, they are fertilized with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm. The embryos that develop will then be frozen. 

In short, egg freezing means you don’t need sperm. Embryo freezing means you need sperm. A person may choose to freeze their embryos if they:

  • Want to have the option available in case other treatments do not work.

  • Are with a partner and want to have kids…but not just yet.

  • Are not quite sure yet if their partner is "the one".
  • Have a genetic condition that could potentially be passed down to a child.

egg freezing storage device

Advantages of Embryo Freezing 

The choice to freeze embryos is personal, and your decisions can be impacted by a variety of factors: your overall health, family-building goals, costs, insurance coverage, etc. Here is some food for thought if you’re considering freezing embryos as a way to preserve your fertility:

  • You may be more likely to get pregnant. Although egg freezing is a great option, the quality of those eggs cannot be determined until the eggs are fertilized and embryos are created. In some cases, when women return to thaw their previously frozen eggs and create embryos, the outcome might not be what they were expecting. 

  • Scheduling may be more convenient. With egg freezing, eggs that are thawed still need to be fertilized. Additionally, with a fresh embryo transfer, time is of the essence. With frozen embryos, you can schedule when they are to be transferred at the most convenient time for you. 

  • You can do genetic testing. By freezing your embryos, you can opt to get preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) to check for chromosomal abnormalities and other conditions, which can increase your chance of pregnancy and lower the risk of miscarriage. 

Freezing Eggs vs Embryos

Ultimately, when it comes to freezing eggs vs embryos, you have to do what is right for you, your partner, and your medical team. What’s wonderful, though, is you have options!

Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a freelance writer, infertility and women’s rights advocate, former stand-up comic, author of the blog, “The 2 Week Wait,” and proud IVF Mom. Her articles have been featured in Time magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. She has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, and BBC, where she has demonstrated her ability to make even reproductive issues fun and educational. You can follow her "infertility humor" on Instagram at @jennjaypal.