A Guide to The Viability of Frozen Eggs – Understanding Egg Donation and Freezing

A Guide to The Viability of Frozen Egg – Understanding Egg Donation and Freezing


Today, more than ever, many women are choosing to postpone motherhood due to various reasons such as career advancement, medical treatments, or personal circumstances. Thanks to advancements in reproductive medicine, particularly the practice of freezing eggs, women can now take control of their reproductive timelines. This article aims to provide an understanding of the process, timeframe, and success rates associated with the long-term storage of frozen eggs.

Understanding Egg Freezing

Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is a process that involves the extraction, freezing, and storage of a woman’s eggs (oocytes) to preserve reproductive potential. This procedure has become an integral part of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), providing women the liberty to extend their fertility.

The Process of Freezing Eggs

The egg freezing process starts with ovarian stimulation. This involves administering fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The development of these eggs is monitored through ultrasound scans and blood tests, and once mature, they are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure.

After retrieval, the eggs are immediately frozen using a process called vitrification. This rapid freezing technique prevents the formation of ice crystals, which could potentially damage the egg. The eggs are then stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius, essentially halting any physiological activity until they are thawed.

The Viability of Frozen Eggs

The question often arises – “How long can eggs be frozen and still remain viable?” From a scientific standpoint, the viability of frozen eggs is seemingly limitless. As long as the eggs remain frozen, no biological or physiological activity can occur, thus preserving the eggs in the state they were in at the time of freezing.

While the longest recorded time of successful storage is currently around 30 years, it is believed that with the proper environment and protocols, eggs may remain viable indefinitely. However, the viability of frozen eggs is not solely dependent on the duration of storage. Other influencing factors include the quality of the eggs at the time of freezing, the precise storage conditions, and the intricacies of the thawing process.

Success Rates with Frozen Eggs

The success rate of using frozen eggs for conception is highly dependent on the quality of the eggs at the time of freezing, the woman’s age, and the specific protocols followed during the freezing and thawing process.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2020 IVF success rate data, frozen embryo transfers (which were created using frozen eggs) have a national success rate of 44.5% singleton births. This rate is comparable to the success rates of fresh or frozen donor eggs as well as women under 35 using their eggs for IVF. However, some studies suggest that frozen eggs to live birth is more in the range of 1 in 4, to 1 in 6. This topic should be discussed carefully with any IVF clinic you choose as your medical clinic.

Long-term Storage of Frozen Eggs

Most women will store their eggs for five to 10 years, but healthy babies have been born from eggs that were frozen for well over a decade. Currently, most fertility clinics provide short-term storage, and for patients who require storage for more than a few months, they recommend long-term storage facilities. These facilities use the latest technology and procedures to protect frozen eggs until patients are ready to use them for conception.

The Use of Donor Eggs

In some cases, women may choose to use frozen eggs from a donor. This can be due to various reasons such as lower costs, easier timing, and guaranteed quality eggs. It is important to note that the success rate of using donor eggs for embryo creation and freezing is highly dependent on the quality of the eggs, how they were frozen, and how they were preserved during shipping.

In Conclusion

Egg freezing has emerged as a pioneering technique, providing individuals and couples with the opportunity to extend their fertility beyond what their biological clock would normally allow. With advancements in cryopreservation methods and meticulous storage protocols, the horizons of long-term preservation possibilities have significantly broadened.

However, the decision to freeze eggs and store them long-term should be made after thorough consultation with a fertility specialist. Each individual’s circumstances and reproductive goals are unique, and a tailored treatment plan can help optimize the chances of successful outcomes.