Donor eggs: fresh vs frozen
Once you’ve decided to use donor eggs, you have two choices: fresh or frozen. Is one method superior to the other? Before you can decide what method is best for you it is important to understand the difference between fresh eggs and frozen ones.
Fresh donor eggs
Fresh donor eggs come from a donor selected by the recipient. The donor undergoes stimulation that allows her to produce multiple eggs for retrieval. All the eggs retrieved belong to the recipient.
The retrieved eggs are combined with the sperm of the male partner in the lab for fertilization. The hardiest and most viable embryos are selected for transfer and the remaining embryos are frozen for future use. Frozen embryos must undergo a thaw cycle if a decision is made to use them later.
Frozen donor eggs
Frozen donor eggs are secured from an egg bank. These are eggs (not embryos) from a donor that have been frozen. Typically, recipients will receive approximately six eggs, regardless of the number of eggs that were retrieved from the donor.
The eggs are thawed and fertilized with partner or donor sperm and allowed to develop into embryos. Development typically takes 3-5 days. The egg or eggs are then transferred to the prepared uterus of the recipient.
Pros and cons of frozen and fresh eggs
Frozen donor eggs were once considered experimental, but in 2013, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine lifted the label. Today many couples opt for frozen donor eggs over fresh for a number of reasons including cost. An IVF cycle using frozen donor eggs can be as much as half the cost of fresh eggs, an option that is very appealing for couples with no IVF insurance coverage.
Typically recipients will only receive six eggs and it is important to factors into account how many children you desire. Fewer eggs mean a reduction in the likely number of eggs that will fertilize. It is not uncommon, however, to obtain two embryos from six eggs. It should be noted that rarely can fertilized eggs be refrozen for later use.
If the transfer results in a successful pregnancy after one cycle, frozen donor eggs could be the most cost-effective solution. If pregnancy does not occur with the first cycle, another cycle requires purchasing more eggs from the egg bank. Costs can quickly escalate with additional cycles.
Another point to consider is that frozen donor eggs are available immediately, while fresh eggs require time for retrieval and delays while cycles sync. However, fresh eggs are more likely to result in multiple embryos (which can be frozen for future use) and the donor selection is larger.
In summary, frozen donor egg success rates are similar, but not quite as high as fresh. If you are considering the use of donor eggs, discuss all choices with your fertility specialist so you can make a decision that is right for you.