Is it worth it for this woman to freeze her eggs?
December 12, 2017 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Is it a waste of money?

Someone I know who is single, keeps saying she wants kids one day and then says she doesn't the next. Apparently there are certain health problems (not hereditary) that she's dealing with that she wants to make sure resolves before becoming a mom and that's what's causing the uncertainty. I suggested adoption to her for when she's ready, but after another friend of ours decided to go the adoption route and we saw the immense drama (and expense) that ensued from that, she decided against it. So I said- "Just put 'em on ice, and then a year or two from now you'll be able to decide if you're in a position where you want to be a mom or not." So now she's actually doing it and has an appointment to go through with it soon... but now I'm concerned I may have lead her to waste her money. (Less expensive than adoption, but still not cheap and insurance isn't covering). There were many posts on metafilter saying the success rate for egg freezing is not good. But these were older posts so I'm wondering if the chances for success are better nowadays?

Also, she's already in her late 30's. I forgot exactly, but she's somewhere between 37-39. The doctors told her that it's better to do it sooner, but she can still try. So if the success rate is already low to begin with and her being her age- I don't want to be the one responsible for her having spent her savings on something that's almost certainly not going to work out for her. So what are the pregnancy success rates for thawed out eggs nowadays? If she freezes embryos would that be much better? Should I tell her to hold off on this and just save the money for adoption procedures in the future instead?

I want to be her friend and I want to make sure I didn't inadvertently cause her to get her hopes up for something that will lead her to just losing money.
posted by fantasticness to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I really, really doubt that the only reason she decided to go through the process of freezing her eggs is because you suggested it to her. Don't worry about it.
posted by cakelite at 7:45 AM on December 12, 2017 [28 favorites]

Unless I'm missing something, you just reminded your friend that freezing her eggs was a possibility and encouraged her to look into it because it could give her more options. I would assume that she (and her doctor) are competent and can come to a decision about whether or not it's something that makes sense for her to do. Until she asks for your help or wants to talk about it, it's not your responsibility to ask these questions on her behalf and I think you're overthinking this.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's her body, her situation, her money, her decision. I would think that she is taking your advice, but ultimately, also thinking through this very difficult decision on her own and making her mind up based on what is best for her specifically.
posted by HeyAllie at 7:47 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

She's a grown woman who can make her own decisions. Like the others have said, I highly doubt you have such sway over this woman that she decided to freeze her eggs after you "told" her to without giving it any additional thought.

I want to be her friend and I want to make sure I didn't inadvertently cause her to get her hopes up for something that will lead her to just losing money.

The best way to be her friend is to stop "telling" her what to do (i.e., don't "tell her to hold off on this and just save the money...") and instead support her at this difficult time.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:02 AM on December 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

You shouldn't "tell" her anything; but feel free to ask her about her strategy and her choices, if she wants to talk about it. (By ask I don't mean "question" her choices, I mean just what you'd ask anyone you cared about, like "what'd the doctor say?")
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2017

So if someone out there can actually answer the question and mention the statistics and success rate of this method We'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

And um... With all due respect intended...if others would like to instead like to avoid answering the question by creating assumptions about how I'm telling her to do something; assumptions about her not knowing about this question on metafilter; assumptions that she did not ask me to post the question; assumptions that she is not simply concerned that the fertility bank isn't being completely honest about the chances because they make money; assumptions that she cannot make her own educated decisions just because she shared her concerns with a good friend (me) and asked...and any other imaginary fantasies that you'd prefer to base your answers on because you do not have the simple facts we are asking for- we would both sincerely appreciate it if you moved on to questions you actually can provide answers to.
posted by fantasticness at 11:23 AM on December 12, 2017

If your question is more along the lines of "What are some resources about egg freezing," here's what I found on Google, etc.:

Time Magazine things to know
Time Magazine investigation

There is a lot of marketing material out there.

- It is still pretty early to know about success rates, but those Time articles say only a quarter of those that froze their eggs then thawed them had a live birth.

- IVF *generally* not just from thawed eggs, isn't a sure thing. The majority of IVF attempts don't result in a live birth.

- It costs $10-15k just to retrieve the eggs. That's a lot of money, obviously. And it involves weeks of hormone injections and poor moods, weight gain, etc.
posted by k8t at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2017

There are some statistics here from Robert Winston. There's no date on his response but I heard him speak last year and he said the same thing.
posted by paduasoy at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2017

I am 39, and I have been going through IVF. Part of the problem with the data we have about IVF and egg freezing is it frequently assumes success rates of previously infertile people, which makes it a lot harder to get a great read on outcomes. Egg freezing vs embryo means that ICSI would be mandatory, which is more expensive and also doesn't have a lot of the benefits of strongest sperm fertilizing. I can't say for your friend, because there is definitely a lot of swing in terms of individual fertility, but there is definitely a big drop-off in egg quantity and quality as you are nearer 40. I personally had 14 eggs retrieved last cycle, but no viable blastocysts, and the consensus was that there were some egg quality issues - so in some ways I would have had a false sense of hope if I had just frozen a cycle's worth of eggs. It is a significant cost, and it's a gamble in a lot of ways, but that isn't to say she shouldn't do it, just that it's useful to know going in.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

From a Mefite who wishes to remain anonymous:
I have been through IVF (unsuccessfully) several times. The process is the same for retrieving eggs for freezing.

Prior to the process they will check her hormones (specifically Amh levels) which will indicate her fertility health. This may already preclude her qualification for egg retrieval. For example, when they did my hormone levels they already warned me that it may be a difficult process for me and I was given the choice to back out.

Then when she starts the hormone treatment, she will go in for scans, sometimes daily. These scans will check her follicle growth. This is another checkpoint. I had to abandon one of my cycles because I was not producing enough follicles. For this cycle I only paid for part of my treatment - the medication and the scans.

Once there is an adequate number of follicles of acceptable size, she will be given a hormone to release eggs, which will then be retrieved. Protocols vary but I was sedated and it was a 15 min outpatient procedure.

Hopefully she will work with a clinic that has options and checkpoints for her to cancel her cycle if the chance of success diminishes during treatment. This is pretty typical and I would be very surprised if a clinic charged her for a full treatment even if she wasn't able to complete it.

Finally, even if they retrieve eggs, the health of the egg matters for freezing. My clinic only froze high quality ("A" graded) eggs. So again, they may not advise freezing if the eggs are not high quality enough.

At her age, the chance of her being able to freeze healthy eggs is probably worthwhile if she has the means to do so. Certainly the tests that they do beforehand are worthwhile, if only to be better informed about her fertility health to guide her decisions.

We also first went down the adoption path when our IVF attempts were unsuccessful (3 in total, I'm now 38). However, when adoption turned out to be very very complicated and expensive in comparison we chose to pursue donor eggs. We are about to start a cycle with a "lot" of 6 frozen eggs. Donor eggs are not the right choice for everyone, it's an incredibly personal decision. But we have made this decision and we're more optimistic than we have been in years. Maybe something for your friend to think about?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2017

FYI, there are a lot of horror stories about IVF and fertility treatments but many success stories as well. I went through one egg retrieval cycle and it was fairly easy. It’s possible to save quite a bit of money by going to Canada so that may be worth investigating. My impression is that foreign clinics are often more experienced with egg freezing than US clinics.
posted by bq at 2:23 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

IVF doctors live and die by their success (ie live birth) rates. It's an expensive and emotional process and it's a competitive market. Docs in that field simply cannot afford to develop a reputation that working with them does not lead to success. They will go over her potential success rates (in terms of percentages) with her during the consultation. If they don't think she has a decent chance at success, they will gently dissuade her from going through with it, and may point her towards other (fertility, not adoption) options and procedures.

After reading your update, if she feels that the doctor has not gone over her options and her potential success rates (impossible for internet strangers to know without knowing her full medical history and current test results), then she should interview a couple more practices, and ask more questions.
posted by vignettist at 8:25 PM on December 12, 2017

My wife and I have both done egg retrievals, and results do vary based on so so so many factors. For her she would start with 12 follicles, get 6 viable eggs and two would fertilize. That's one IVF try.
The only time I did it, I had 20 follicles which produced 15 eggs and 13 fertilized.
I'm younger (32) and not known to have fertility issues, but I do have Endo and PCOS. My results are phenomenal. Hers are more typical.

So, results can vary
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:44 AM on December 13, 2017

Generalist OB/GYN here (IANYOBGYN, etc, and not an REI). Also froze my own eggs at the ripe old age of 36.

To some of your specific questions there are simply not a lot of data yet. The egg vitrification process has gotten much better, so older stats on egg freezing which showed lower success rates may no longer apply. The old mantra was that you should freeze embryos instead because they survived the freezing/defrosting much better, but nowadays eggs alone are probably fine. And if you freeze embryos you have to get into the whole who-will-the-sperm-donor-be thing, and if she meets someone in the future with whom she would want to have kids, some men are very resistant to using someone else's genetic material. Nimmie Amee is correct, however, in that you would have to use ICSI for any fertilization attempts which (at least where I have experience) is around another grand, and does mean a lab tech is randomly choosing a sperm to inject into the egg instead of letting the little swimmers battle it out.

Because she's not technically dealing with infertility (that we are aware of), a lot of the IVF stats will simply not apply to her with (presumed) normal fertility.
posted by eglenner at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2017

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