Egg freezing has become an important part of today’s fertility conversations. New techniques and technologies in cryopreservation have made this a viable option for many young women who know that they want to have children, but are not ready to be pregnant right now.
In your twenties, thirties, and even early forties, life moves quickly. Education, careers, and relationships are priorities, but while you lean in to the responsibilities of today, the dreaded “biological clock” ticks away in the background. Egg freezing is a way to press pause on your fertility while you set up your life for a baby.
Making the choice to freeze your eggs can be an empowering decision, but you may be concerned about the cost. How can you know whether you’re getting a good deal? What can you expect from your fertility clinic’s egg freezing package? Here’s a guide to the financial side of fertility preservation for women.
Can freezing eggs save me money in the long term?
The upfront cost of freezing your eggs can be a significant investment, especially for women in the early stages of their careers, when they are most likely to choose this option. When you take the long view, however, it can be a wise investment. A recent study, which took into account the costs of egg preservation, storage, and IVF, found that a woman who freezes her eggs at 35 and uses them at 40 will save an average of $15,000 throughout the entire process.
Using younger eggs for IVF when you’re ready can mean a much higher success rate than if you were using eggs that have aged along with you, which can mean fewer IVF cycles before you become pregnant. When you add to this the fact that using frozen eggs is less expensive than a fresh IVF cycle, the savings add up. Of course, there are many factors involved, including your age at the time you freeze your eggs and your age at the time you plan to become pregnant, as well as your personal medical and fertility history, so this is something to discuss with your doctor.
What’s included in an average egg-freezing cycle?
Exactly what is included in a clinic’s egg freezing package can vary, but generally the basic price of a cycle will include the cost of the services you receive throughout a cycle.
- Tests and monitoring appointments. The process begins with initial tests to determine your ovarian health and function and to decide what dosage of fertility medication you will need. You will also need to visit your fertility clinic several times throughout the ovarian stimulation process to check the development of your follicles and eggs with blood tests and ultrasounds.
- Egg retrieval procedure. Once your follicles have matured, you’ll visit the clinic again for a “trigger shot” which will induce the final maturation of the eggs. After a wait of about 35 to 36 hours, you will return for the egg retrieval procedure. This is a short procedure which only takes about 30 minutes. It is performed under a gentle anesthetic (similar to the anesthesia used for a wisdom tooth removal.)
- Cryopreservation. After your eggs are retrieved, they are taken to a lab to be frozen. This process is called oocyte cryopreservation. The newer cryo-vitrification techniques, also known as “flash freezing” cools the eggs instantly to sub-zero temperatures. This allows the eggs to be preserved with very little risk to their quality.
What other costs are involved in egg freezing?
Not all of the associated costs of freezing your eggs will be covered by the fee you pay to the fertility clinic.
- Fertility medications. Your doctor will write the prescriptions for the fertility medications used to stimulate your ovaries during your cycle, but because the prescriptions are filled by outside pharmacies, the cost of medications are not generally included in your cycle. This can be one of the most expensive parts of egg-freezing, as medication costs can run into the thousands. Some pharmaceutical companies have discount or rebate programs for their fertility medications, so that is an option worth exploring to help keep costs down.
- Anesthesia. Anesthesia costs for the egg retrieval procedure are often charged separately from the rest of the cycle. This is because the anesthesia is often administered by an outside provider who comes to the clinic only for the procedure. This provider will usually bill for their services separately. This may vary by clinic: some may have an on-staff anesthesiologist.
- Storage. Storage fees for frozen eggs are generally changed on a yearly basis. This cost is not usually included in the overall price of an egg freezing cycle. The specialized equipment and facilities needed to safely care for frozen eggs are expensive, and most clinics will use a separate storage facility which charges its own fees. The amount of time you are planning to store your eggs before using them will be a factor in your total cost. Generally, frozen eggs can be stored for about 10 years without any appreciable loss in quality, thanks to new, better methods of freezing and storage.
What do I need to know before I start treatment?
Here are things you should consider before choosing a clinic for egg freezing.
- Look at your insurance policy before you go. While egg freezing is not generally covered by insurance, the costs associated with your initial fertility consultation and early tests could be. A fertility checkup is a smart move for women who know they want to conceive in the future, especially if you are in your 30s, and diagnostic procedures and tests are often covered under medical insurance. If you have a serious medical reason to preserve your fertility (for example, if you are about to begin treatment for cancer) in some cases your insurance may be willing to cover more of the egg-freezing process.
- Ask the clinic for an itemized list of what’s included in each cycle. We’ve already listed what’s usually covered and not covered in the cost of an egg-freezing cycle, but not every clinic structures fees in the same way. You might come across a package that looks much less expensive, only to find that it doesn’t include something that’s covered in another package, pushing the overall cost up. Some clinics may have more highly priced packages which do include “extras” such as anesthesia for egg retrieval and the first year of storage. Make sure that the numbers are actually adding up to real savings.
- Learn about your current ovarian function. This stage will hopefully be covered by medical insurance, but even if you are paying out of pocket, this is a fairly low-cost and low-risk beginning to the egg-freezing process. The first step for anyone thinking about freezing their eggs is to find out how your ovaries are producing right now. An ovarian reserve test uses blood tests and an ultrasound to determine how many eggs you have, and how much effort your ovaries are putting in to produce mature eggs when you ovulate. This portrait of your ovarian functioning will be an important starting point for everything that comes next.
- Ask your doctor how many eggs you should freeze and how many cycles you will likely need. Generally, the younger you are when you undergo egg retrieval, the fewer eggs you need to freeze. For women in their early 30s, the number is usually around 20. For women over 40, a target of 30 is more realistic. In an average ovarian stimulation cycle, you can expect to produce around 10 eggs, though this can vary quite a bit. Based on the results of your ovarian reserve test and your medical history, your doctor should be able to estimate your ideal number of eggs to freeze and how long it will take to reach that goal. As each cycle is usually charged separately, knowing how many you’ll probably need. will help you plan financially.
- Take a close look at package offerings. Some clinics offer “all inclusive” packages for a flat fee which may appear very attractive at first glance, but make sure they are being transparent about what “all inclusive” actually means, and whether it’s actually a savings over a “pay as you go” plan. For example, you might see a flat fee package which guarantees up to four cycles for you to reach a target number of eggs. If you need all four cycles, this could be a great deal, but if you produce all the eggs you need in your first or second cycle, you could end up paying far more than you need to. Ask whether there is a partial refund policy for cases like this.
As we often say on the blog, education and good information are your best allies at any stage of your fertility journey. Don’t assume that you can’t afford to take this step towards preserving your fertility. You may find that egg freezing is within reach. Ask about financial counselling and financing options. Some clinics allow payment plans which spread the cost into surprisingly affordable monthly payments.
When you educate yourself about what to expect and know what to ask, you’ll be in a much better position to evaluate a clinic’s offerings and start conversations about the right package for your needs. Thinking about the financial side of your fertility plan can be uncomfortable, but you should be able to expect honesty, transparency, and an open attitude to talking about costs from your Los Angeles fertility clinic.
Our very own Dr. Shahin Ghadir gives some additional insight on egg freezing below:
Looking for more advice about paying for fertility preservation? Why not download our free eBook on the subject? This concise, helpful guide answers some of the most common questions about paying for egg freezing, such as whether insurance coverage or tax relief is usually available. You’ll also learn some strategies which can help make egg freezing a realistic and affordable option to help you make a clear-eyed decision about your fertility and your financial future.