After egg extraction, eggs or embryos can be frozen and stored until treatment is over and you're ready to get pregnant.
If you know who you'd like to be the father of your child or children, your eggs can be fertilized and frozen as embryos. If you don't yet know who the father will be, you can freeze your unfertilized eggs.
Embryo freezing has been performed longer than unfertilized egg freezing. With this procedure, the father would be asked to come with you to the fertility center to donate sperm on the day your eggs are extracted. Your eggs would then be fertilized with the sperm in vitro (in the lab, outside of your body) and the resulting embryos frozen and stored.
Freezing eggs that are not fertilized is becoming more common for women diagnosed with breast cancer. You may choose to freeze your eggs for several reasons:
- you don't have a partner when you're diagnosed
- you're not comfortable using donor sperm
- you have religious or ethical concerns about freezing and storing embryos because you may not have the chance to implant them all later
Freezing eggs is a newer technique than freezing embryos and is still considered experimental. According to Gina Shaws book, Having Children After Cancer, about 900 babies have been born via egg freezing as of 2009.
Eggs are harder to freeze than embryos. They're large cells and have a lot of water inside. This means that ice crystals can form during freezing; ice crystals can damage the chromosomes in the eggs and make them unusable.
The success rate with frozen eggs is about 50% of the success rate with frozen embryos. But researchers are continuing to study the technology, and it's expected to improve in the next several years.
The average cost of embryo freezing and in vitro fertilization is about $10,000 per cycle, with medicines adding another $5,000 to the total. Freezing just eggs is slightly less expensive, about $8,000 with the same added costs for medicines. Depending on the type of coverage you have, your insurance may cover some of these costs.