Many people who are researching the pros and cons of using fresh vs. frozen donor eggs for IVF automatically assume using fresh donor eggs is a better option than frozen eggs. That’s completely understandable, as we know you want to do everything possible to optimize your chances of becoming a parent! But in this case, fresh isn’t always better. Let’s get a closer look at the pros and cons of each choice, so you can make the decision that is best for you.
Our medical team has been involved with frozen donor egg banking for nearly 20 years, having established one of the very first frozen egg banks in the world in 2004. The technology used to successfully freeze eggs has come a long way and has greatly improved over time, so much so that we now see comparable birth rates between fresh and frozen eggs at our clinic. Our many years of experience, our in-house database of donors, and our market-leading live birth success rates offer intended parents an opportunity to build their families with the support of an experienced leader and pioneer in the field.
Donor Eggs and Embryo Freezing
Every egg freezing cycle here at Santa Monica Fertility uses the vitrification method. The term vitrification comes from the Latin word vitrum meaning glass. With this method, the eggs are flash-frozen by immersing them in liquid nitrogen, cooling them nearly instantly to -196 C, so they become glass-like, or vitrified. This quick-freezing process nearly eliminates the possibility of ice crystals forming inside the eggs and damaging them.
Dr. John Jain, our Medical Director, helped to pioneer the next generation of egg donation using frozen donor eggs. He was instrumental in creating one of the first frozen donor egg banks in the world. Our proprietary freezing and thawing methods are research-driven and are based on Dr. Jain’s award-winning early research program.
All of our research and years of experience translate into outstanding results for our patients. According to the CDC, the average live birth rate for most fertility clinics when using frozen donor eggs is 43%. Santa Monica Fertility consistently reports a live birth success rate of 65% per embryo transfer, which is comparable to our success rates when using fresh donor eggs.
What’s the Difference Between Fresh and Frozen Donor Eggs?
The main real difference between using fresh or frozen eggs has to do with the timing of the egg fertilization process.
Fresh eggs are fertilized within hours of being retrieved from the donor and are then cultured in the IVF lab for 5 days until they reach the blastocyst embryo state. At this point, they are frozen until the intended parent is ready for an embryo transfer.
Frozen eggs are not fertilized immediately but are cryopreserved (frozen) within hours of being retrieved from the egg donor. When the intended parent is ready for a transfer, 6 or more eggs are thawed, then fertilized, and cultured to the blastocyst embryo stage for immediate embryo transfer. Embryo can also be frozen for transfer at a later stage.
Can Genetic Testing Be Performed on Frozen Eggs?
We use a PGT-A (Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy) test to determine the chromosomal health of IVF embryos, as only embryos that possess the correct number of chromosomes can implant into the uterine wall and develop into a healthy baby.
The PGT-A is used to test blastocysts derived from either fresh or frozen blastocyst embryos. It is performed by removing (biopsying) 5 to 6 cells from the compartment of the embryo that eventually becomes the placenta and tests for chromosomal normalcy as well as sex. PGT-A results typically return in 7 to 10 days.
With fresh eggs, a PGT-A biopsy is performed on fresh blastocysts before they are frozen.
Frozen eggs must be thawed, fertilized, and cultured to the blastocyst embryo stage before performing the PGT-A biopsy. After the biopsy, the embryos are re-frozen for transfer at a later date after the PGT-A results return.
Fresh vs. Frozen Donor Eggs – Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to using fresh or frozen donor eggs. At Santa Monica Fertility, live birth rates are high and comparable for both fresh and frozen eggs. While success rates are ultimately the most important factor, other considerations may influence your decision to use fresh or frozen eggs.
Using frozen eggs makes IVF much more convenient for our patients, as the recipient and the egg donor do not have to have their cycles in sync. Using frozen eggs can also be potentially less expensive, as eggs from a single donor can be shared more easily among several recipients.
Pros and Cons of Using Frozen Donor Eggs
Pro: Frozen donor eggs are for immediate cycle planning
All frozen donor eggs listed in our online egg donor database are already frozen and available to be thawed and fertilized. This means that there is no wait time for the donors to complete their cycles. You can secure the eggs immediately and start planning your donor egg IVF process right away.
With fresh egg donation, it takes 2-3 months to complete the donor cycle and have the embryos ready for transfer.
Pro: Time flexibility when using frozen donor eggs
Once secured, frozen donor eggs can be thawed and fertilized at a date convenient for you. Fresh eggs cannot be used until the egg donation cycle is completed and embryos are created.
Egg donors who are available for fresh cycles are already medically, psychologically, and genetically screened (you can learn more about how we test our donors here: Egg Donor Screening process), but will still need to go through the egg stimulation process which takes 2-6 weeks.
Pro: More flexibility when coordinating with sperm source
Because eggs are frozen immediately after retrieval, they can be thawed and fertilized at a time convenient to the sperm provider, whether sperm is sourced from an intended father or sperm donor.
Pro: No canceled egg donor cycles
Because mature donor eggs are already frozen and ready to be secured, there is no need to worry that the egg donation process and egg retrieval will be interrupted or unsuccessful.
Con: One more step in the egg donation process
Unlike fresh eggs, which are immediately fertilized, frozen eggs must first be frozen and thawed before fertilizing. This added step could possibly impact cycles where the sperm source is significantly abnormal.
Con: Potentially less flexibility with donor egg batch size
The minimum frozen donor egg batch size is typically 6 eggs. If the frozen egg inventory for a particular donor is less than 12 eggs, all eggs must be secured. With fresh eggs, intended parents have more flexibility and can reserve larger batches of eggs. Larger batch sizes facilitate PGT-A testing, sex selection, and building larger families.
Pros and Cons of Using Fresh Donor Eggs
Pro: Securing a bigger batch of fresh donor eggs to have a larger family
The average fresh egg donor cycle yields 20 eggs. Groups (known as batches) of a minimum of 8 fresh eggs are available to be secured, but if you are hoping for siblings in the future, or a particular gender of your baby, or want your embryos to be genetically tested, you can secure additional eggs from the start, for example, a batch of 10, 12, 16 or more eggs.
Based on your individual circumstance and fertility goals, our fertility specialists will recommend an optimal batch of donor eggs you should secure.
Pro: Theoretically improving outcomes when sperm is abnormal
Overall, the outcomes and the birth rates for frozen donor eggs is comparable to fresh donor eggs. However, in the case of very abnormal semen analysis or surgically retrieved sperm, fresh eggs my theoretically lead to more embryos and thus higher chance for pregnancy.
Con: Excess of embryos
There may be a possibility that although there are additional embryos available, you no longer desire to try for a sibling in the future. Although frozen embryos can be safely stored for a long time, it’s important for the intended parents to consider the issue of what happens to their unwanted embryos.
Con: Sperm must be available on time
Because fresh donor eggs are fertilized at the time of retrieval, sperm must be available on that specific day. An egg retrieval procedure cannot be postponed; therefore, the eggs will need to be frozen unfertilized if there is a delay in timely sperm delivery.
Con: Fresh egg donation process takes longer
A fresh egg donor cycle typically takes two to three months to complete. Although all our egg donors who are available for a fresh cycle are already fully medically, psychologically, and genetically screened (you can learn more about how we test our donors here: Egg Donor Screening process), going through egg stimulation and getting ready for an egg retrieval will take more time.
Con: Egg Donation cycle may be interrupted or canceled
A fresh egg donor cycle may be interrupted due to medical issues or other factors the donor may experience. Although we plan the fresh egg donation cycles with utmost care and an individualized donor egg stimulation protocol, unforeseen events can happen. Although uncommon, unfortunately, fresh egg donor cycle disruptions do happen.
How Do I Choose an Egg Donor Agency?
Given the ease of use and lower costs of using frozen donor eggs versus traditional fresh egg donation cycles, frozen eggs have emerged as the preferred technology and option for egg donation. There are several national banks that offer frozen donor eggs. Many of these banks recruit donors and “bank” the eggs at one or more central IVF laboratories. Egg batches are then shipped to affiliated fertility practices.
While this model has been successful, there are differences that affect both the intended parent experience and success rates. Because of the centralized, relatively automated processes these egg banks use, it is likely that the “sales” person representing the bank, as well as the doctor and nurse at the intended parent’s clinic, have no personal knowledge of the donor, eliminating the human touch that many intended parents need when making their donor choice.
Equally important is the fact that many IVF labs have limited experience with frozen donor eggs and cannot compensate for possible drops in success rates which are commonly seen when frozen material is shipped between IVF labs. This reduction in success rates can be seen when comparing nationally published birth rates from donor eggs, demonstrating a birth rate of 43% form frozen donor eggs versus 56% from fresh eggs.
At Santa Monica Fertility, our entire team from the egg donor coordinators to the medical and laboratory staff, is intimately involved with the donor from the time she first applies to be a donor, through the donor screening, egg donation process, and ultimately matching with an intended parent. This allows careful selection of donors (only 2% of applicants are accepted) for our own in-house egg donor agency (Santa Monica Donor Egg Bank), and when combined with expert egg stimulation, leads to the high-quality eggs for our laboratory to freeze.
Our birth rates at Santa Monica Fertility are 65% for both frozen and fresh eggs compared to national averages of 43% and 56% for frozen vs fresh eggs respectively. Our 20 years of experience in egg freezing and the notable expertise of our laboratory personnel, combined with our collaborative approach, form the basis of our consistently high success rates for patients using donor eggs.
We will also ship frozen eggs to a limited number of fertility practices that have also demonstrated expertise with frozen donor eggs.
Fresh and Frozen Donor Eggs at Santa Monica Fertility
At Santa Monica Fertility, we offer both fresh egg donation cycles and frozen donor eggs based on what is best for our individual patients. Our programs operate with the highest quality control in place to ensure you receive only mature, healthy eggs from trusted and often proven egg donors.
Santa Monica Donor Egg Bank – Fully Screened Fresh and Frozen Egg Donors
All egg donors available for fresh cycles are already fully screened by doctors at Santa Monica Fertility rather than a donor agency. We know our donors and they are part of our Santa Monica Fertility family. Our donors have often donated with us in the past, and frequently come back to donate with us again.
Thanks to the experience and medical care provided by our physicians, the donors are stimulated using individualized protocols, with donor safety, and the production of quality eggs as our highest priority. You can view the profiles of our egg donors available for fresh cycles, as well as a selection of frozen donor eggs online, at Santa Monica Donor Egg Bank.
Shared Egg Donor Cycles: A More Affordable Option
Both fresh and frozen eggs are offered through a shared egg donor program. Shared cycles allow intended parents to share eggs with other intended parents, which makes the cost much lower than going through a traditional egg donation cycle. Fresh donor eggs are secured in minimum batches of 8 eggs. In a similar way, frozen eggs in our donor egg bank are available to be secured in minimum batches of 6 eggs. Both of these options offer significant cost savings when compared to a traditional donor cycle.
All-Inclusive Third-Party Reproduction Center
To provide the specialized care you deserve, our clinical facilities, laboratory, and our entire team are all in-house, without outside agency involvement. It is generally accepted that success rates using frozen donor eggs for IVF cycles are higher if the eggs are frozen, thawed, and fertilized by the same embryology team, at the same facility, following the same protocol.
In contrast, frozen donor egg banks may work with donors who have not donated before, with doctors who may not use individualized stimulation protocols, and with IVF laboratories that may not be experienced with frozen donor eggs – you may not get the integrated care you need to achieve the pregnancy you desire.
How to Choose Between Fresh vs. Frozen Donor Eggs
When choosing between using fresh eggs vs. frozen donor eggs for IVF, you want to focus on the outcome, which is a successful pregnancy and a healthy child. To improve your chances of success, you need to pick your egg donor, egg bank, and fertility clinic very carefully. To get optimal results, work with the best.
Of course, we understand that cost of donor eggs may be a significant consideration. While the cost of an equivalent number of eggs may be less at an outside egg bank, one must carefully consider the true costs when birth rates are factored into the equation. Simply put, the birth rate at Santa Monica Fertility is 50% higher than the national average (65% vs 43% for frozen eggs). This means an intended parent is 50% more likely to have a baby from Santa Monica Fertility, ultimately resulting in a much lower overall cost.
Is it better to use fresh or frozen donor eggs?
Using fresh donor eggs requires more cycle planning than using frozen donor eggs, but otherwise, the two options rate high in terms of success. To help choose between the two, be sure to ask plenty of questions to donor egg bank and fertility clinic candidates. Here are some questions for you to consider asking:
Questions for donor egg banks:
- What is the average success rate of using frozen donor eggs from your bank?
- Are your donors proven, with successful pregnancies and live births from their past donations?
- Do your donors cycle exclusively with your donor bank?
- How do you individualize your stimulation protocol for your donors?
- What method do you use to freeze eggs?
- What guarantees come with a batch of fresh or frozen eggs?
Questions for fertility clinics:
- What is your published live birth rate (CDC) when using frozen donor eggs?
- How long have you been performing frozen donor egg IVF cycles?
- How many frozen donor egg cycles do you do annually?
Choosing between using frozen or fresh donor eggs is a big decision. We’re ready to answer all your questions, whether you are wondering about the cost of donor eggs, the success rate of IVF with donor eggs, the egg donor screening process, or any other concerns you may have about using donor eggs.