How do women use their eggs years after freezing them?

Israeli researchers found that many women didn’t use their eggs, and only a few eventually managed to get pregnant. Here's a short guide about the procedure.

Egg freezing process (illustrative) (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Egg freezing process (illustrative)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Freezing eggs is one way in which women can "extend" the time limit for getting pregnant and increase the chances of becoming pregnant in the future even if they suffer from medical problems which affect their fertility, and also after the age of 35.

Recently this option has become widely available, and many women are choosing it to increase their chances of getting pregnant in the future. Planned egg preservation seems to be a reasonable option for women in their 30s who currently aren’t interested in having children, but want to preserve the possibility of using their eggs to get pregnant later.

How was the study conducted? 

A new study by Prof. Talia Miron Schatz, a social psychologist who studies the medical decisions of patients and doctors at the Ono Academic College near Tel Aviv, reviewed the procedures undergone by women who decided to freeze their eggs. The survey included 108 women who had done the process at least 4 years earlier.

Contact was conducted over the phone and was attended usually by the attending physician, and the women who agreed to participate were sent a survey with 34 questions which, among other issues, examined their reflections regarding the physical and emotional consequences of the egg preservation process.

Between 2011 and 2018, 477 women were examined during the freezing process; almost all were single and childless. Most had an academic education and common occupations were teaching, law, architecture. Other jobs were social work, services, sales and security. The average age when doing the freezing process was 36.6. The survey took place 5-6 years later when the average age was 42.6.

 Pregnant woman (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE) Pregnant woman (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

How many women used their eggs

In this study, the rate of egg utilization was about 20% and only three women got pregnant using the eggs. Non-utilization of eggs was explained for two main reasons: pregnancy without the use of frozen eggs or delaying conception due to not having a partner. During the follow-up period, 63% reported trying to conceive naturally or using assistive reproductive technology with fresh or preserved eggs. Of these, only 64% tried to conceive.

When asked if egg freezing affected their attempts to conceive, only 13 women (19%) said yes. Of those, all but one noted that the egg-freezing experience motivated them to take action such as trying to conceive earlier than previously expected, starting fertility treatment shortly after marriage, or choosing a sperm donor instead of waiting for a partner.

It seems that the women who froze eggs did so to 'buy time'. They preferred to 'rescue' their frozen eggs and try to conceive naturally or through a sperm donor and fresh eggs, and for them, the freezing process was a kind of 'insurance certificate'. Another notable feature was the large number of single haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women who froze eggs.