A paper published this summer in Fertility and Sterility found that many individuals who try to get pregnant with frozen eggs are unsuccessful because they wait too long to collect and freeze their eggs, or they do not freeze enough of them, Gina Kolata writes for the New York Times.
Study details and key findings
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 543 patients at New York University Langone Fertility Center. In total, the patients underwent 800 oocyte cryopreservations, 605 thaws, and 436 transfers.
On average, the patients in the study were 38.8 years old, and waited 4.2 years after freezing their eggs to thaw and fertilize them.
Overall, patients had a 39% chance of having a live birth (LB) from the frozen eggs. However, the LB rate among individuals who were under the age of 38 when they froze their eggs increased to 51%. For individuals under the age of 38 who thawed at least 20 eggs, the LB rate rose to 70%.
"The age of the woman when she used the eggs to try to have a baby did not make a difference—all that mattered was how old a woman was when she froze her eggs and how many she froze," Kolata writes.
"The reality is most eggs don't make good embryos," said James Grifo, a study author and director of the fertility center. "The more eggs you have, the better the chance."
According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the number of healthy individuals freezing their eggs rose from 7,193 in 2016 to 12,438 in 2020. However, Timothy Hickman, president of the society and medical director of CCRM Fertility in Houston, noted that national data on success rates for individuals who freeze, thaw, and fertilize their eggs is very limited.
"I commend them for doing the study," Hickman said.
Marcelle Cedars, professor and director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at the University of California San Francisco who was not involved in the study, said that while the study only involved one fertility clinic, "Iit is a center that is unique for its long duration of follow-up."
Separately, Alan Penzias, a fertility specialist at Boston IVF Fertility Clinic and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who chairs the practice committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said the data from his center is consistent with the data in the NYU study. According to Penzias, people who froze their eggs at his fertility center had a chance of roughly 33% of having a LB from a thawed egg.
"Counseling should be clear that there is no guarantee and that the value of delaying having a child must exceed the benefit of delay," Penzias said.
According to Cedars, NYU's data is "sobering" and "should give women pause." Cedars, who also serves as the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, noted that many people "are overly optimistic" about their odds of having a baby with their frozen eggs. "It is not, as many assume, an insurance policy," Kolata adds.
"The pregnancy rate is not as good as I think a lot of women think it will be," Cedars said. "I always tell patients, 'There's not a baby in the freezer. There's a chance to get pregnant.'"
Notably, each egg retrieval can cost $10,000. In addition, it costs another $5,000 to $7,000 to thaw and fertilize the eggs, $3,000 to test for chromosomal anomalies, and up to $1,000 each year to store the frozen eggs. (Kolata, New York Times, 9/23; Druckenmiller et al., Fertility and Sterility, 5/18)