Egg freezing can be a great way to open up your fertility options in the future. But how much does it cost to freeze eggs?
Women globally are having children later, as more of us wait to establish a healthy relationship as well as a career and stable finances before thinking about a family. And that’s empowering in lots of ways. But it also remains a fact that fertility begins to decline with age from around 35 years old, which is why egg freezing has become an increasingly popular option in recent years.
But while egg freezing might help to preserve your fertility longer, it comes at a price, which can be a barrier for some people. So how much does it cost to freeze eggs? Does insurance cover egg freezing? And is egg freezing really worth it, based on the success rates?
You’re bound to have all these questions and more if you’re considering this procedure — after all, it’s a big decision. To help you explore your options and demystify the process, we spoke to Dr. Lucky Sekhon, an OB-GYN (obstetrician and gynecologist), reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist, about how much it costs to freeze your eggs and what else you can expect along the way.
The egg freezing process: What does it involve?
The egg freezing process can seem pretty complicated, so before we get into the cost, let’s take a look at the steps.
“You’ll start injecting yourself with synthetic hormones twice a day for 8 to 10 days to mature the eggs available in that cycle,” explains Dr. Sekhon. “Health care professionals will check how the follicles, which release eggs, are growing, as well as your estrogen levels. You’ll then be told when to inject a final time with what’s known as a ‘trigger shot’ of hormones. This is usually 36 hours before egg retrieval.”
She adds, “The most modern way to freeze your eggs is with vitrification, where eggs are frozen with liquid nitrogen. When you’re ready for IVF [in vitro fertilization], your frozen eggs can be warmed, injected with sperm to fertilize them, grown into embryos, and transferred into your uterus.”
How much does it cost to freeze eggs?
The big question — the one that’s often a major factor in any decision to undergo fertility treatment like this — is this: How much does it cost to freeze eggs? And of course, it’s hard to give a definitive figure, considering the price will change depending on where you live and which clinic you choose.
In the US, egg freezing typically costs anywhere from $9,000 to $10,000, according to Dr. Sekhon, but some clinics can charge up to $15,000, with medications adding another $2,000 to $3,000 to that bill. Then, there’s the cost of egg storage to consider. Your eggs need to be kept at a laboratory where they remain safely preserved in liquid nitrogen, but that isn’t cheap. Some clinics may offer the first year of storage for free, but after that, egg storage could cost around $1,000 a year. Considering you can freeze eggs indefinitely in the United States (there’s no cap on the number of years you can keep them, unlike in the UK), that cost could easily creep up.
In Canada, egg freezing can cost you from CA$5,000 to upward of CA$10,000 per cycle, depending on the clinic, plus storage fees of around CA$300 to CA$500 a year. You can freeze your eggs for as many years as you like, but Canadian guidelines recommend you book the implantation before your 50th birthday.
In the UK, the average cost of freezing eggs is around 3,350 pounds, with an additional 500 to 1,500 pounds for medication. Storage costs are between 125 and 350 pounds per year, and thawing and implanting your eggs could cost 2,500 pounds on average. Typically, eggs can be stored for a maximum of 10 years. However a recent change in the law means that in certain circumstances, eggs can be stored for up to 55 years. Cancer patients who are having chemotherapy treatment that might make them infertile are included in this ruling.
In Australia, you’re probably looking at between AU$5,000 and AU$7,000 a cycle. Plus, you’ll need to factor in AU$1,500 for medication and AU$500 a year for freezer storage. Eggs can be frozen indefinitely in Australia.
Keep in mind that after freezing your eggs, if you want to use them, you’ll need to pay to have them thawed, fertilized (depending on your circumstances, you may also need to pay for a sperm donor), and implanted. These additional costs can mean the whole egg freezing process comes with a sizable price tag.
Does health insurance cover egg freezing?
There are two types of egg freezing — elective and medically indicated — and depending on which you’re experiencing, you may or may not be able to get egg freezing covered by your health insurance. Elective egg freezing is when you freeze your eggs so that you have the choice to have a baby later in life, whereas medically indicated egg freezing can occur when you’re going through a necessary treatment that could affect your fertility, like chemotherapy.
In the United States, elective egg freezing is rarely covered by health insurance, while some plans may cover egg freezing for medical reasons. It’s a similar story in Canada, although if you live in Ontario and have an Ontario health card, you’re entitled to one treatment cycle of fertility preservation, which includes egg freezing, for certain medical reasons.
In the UK, elective egg freezing is not covered by the National Health Service, but you may be eligible for medical egg freezing if a treatment you’re having could affect your fertility. If you live in England, the number of rounds of IVF you could be entitled to can change based on the area you live in. To determine what you could be eligible for, find your local Clinical Commissioning Group here.
In Australia, Medicare can cover some of the costs of the egg freezing process, but you will likely still have to pay the rest yourself. You can find more information about that here.
It’s also worth checking if your workplace offers financial help toward the cost of fertility treatments as an employee benefit, as this is an increasingly common offering in some industries.
How successful is egg freezing?
Like most fertility procedures, egg freezing has no guarantees. A general figure for success is almost impossible to calculate because it depends on so many affecting factors that are specific to the individual, including age and how many eggs are frozen. But generally, frozen-thawed eggs perform equally well as fresh eggs do in IVF treatment (which you would need to undergo if you wanted a pregnancy to result from a frozen egg), and between 90% and 97% of frozen eggs will survive being thawed, according to one Canadian study from 2015.
Age is a major influence when it comes to egg freezing. The chances of a live birth following IVF decrease the older you are, as well as with the number of unsuccessful cycles you’ve completed before, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. It’s also vital to take into account the age you are when you do egg freezing. Generally, the younger you freeze your eggs, the more chance of success you’re likely to have when you use them in fertility treatment.
There are plenty of other factors that can impact your chances of having a baby from a frozen egg, too. If you’ve previously been pregnant, you may be more likely to have a successful IVF treatment because you have “demonstrated fertility” already. A healthy lifestyle is also recommended for improving success rates (expert advice suggests that having a BMI between 19 and 30 is ideal). Stopping smoking, drinking no more than one unit of alcohol per day, and keeping caffeine consumption at a “moderate” level (1 to 2 cups of coffee per day or its equivalent) could all help to increase your chances, too.
As the statistics indicate, freezing your eggs by no means guarantees a future live birth, and many fertility specialists advise patients not to change their family plans or delay their fertility on the basis that they’ve frozen their eggs. But what preserving your eggs does do is give you the option to explore your fertility at a later date, if that’s what you want.
How much does it cost to freeze embryos?
Freezing eggs is one thing, but there is another option if you want to try preserving your fertility: freezing embryos. The difference between freezing eggs and freezing embryos is that the latter requires the egg to have been fertilized before the freezing process. This, naturally, comes with considerations of its own. “When you freeze embryos, you are committing to using a specific sperm source, and that cannot be undone. Therefore, there is less flexibility with embryo freezing,” explains Dr. Sekhon.
“It’s a good option for someone in a committed relationship with a high degree of confidence that they will want to have children with that person or individuals who know they want to use donor sperm and are OK with solidifying that decision now,” she adds.
So why else might you want to consider freezing embryos instead of eggs? Embryo freezing happens later in the process than egg freezing, which means fertility doctors have the benefit of knowing exactly how many embryos are available to thaw and use immediately.
As for the cost of embryo freezing? As you might imagine, it can cost more to freeze embryos than to freeze eggs.
“Generally speaking, embryo freezing is about double the cost of egg freezing because you are thawing, fertilizing the egg, turning them into embryos, and then possibly genetically testing the embryos before they are transferred,” explains Dr. Sekhon. That said, the cost of embryo freezing will vary depending on the country and the clinic, just like the cost of egg freezing.
How much does it cost to freeze eggs? The takeaway
Egg freezing doesn’t come cheap — and success rates depend on many factors. While there are no guarantees, egg freezing can offer opportunities to prolong your fertility and give you more choice over if and when you have children.
So is it worth it? Ultimately, that’s a decision that lies with you, depending on your financial situation and how much you want to try to preserve your fertility. Take time to think about it and talk it through with an OB-GYN or a reproductive endocrinologist and eventually you’ll come to the right conclusion for you.