Frozen or Fresh Donor Eggs: The True Story

Have you been considering using donor eggs for an IVF cycle but you just don’t know where to start? It can feel daunting to know what next best step to take without understanding all of your options. At Santa Monica Fertility, we are experienced in a range of options and we love to counsel our egg donation patients on both fresh and frozen donor egg cycles. Our years of experience enable us to share more information about our successful frozen cycles and about why fresh donor eggs may provide an even better chance of having a baby.

Frozen Egg Banks

Many patients who come to us after a failed frozen donor egg cycle used eggs from an egg bank. Similar to sperm banks, egg banks are places where eggs are retrieved, frozen and stored. Then intended parents choose their donor from an online database. The frozen donor eggs are often shipped to a fertility clinic where they are thawed, fertilized, and transferred during an IVF cycle. Egg banks promote lower costs and shorter wait times as well as faster cycle times because the donor’s and intended mother’s cycles do not need to be synched as with a fresh egg donation cycle. The downside, however, is that frozen eggs do not achieve the pregnancy rates that we see in using fresh eggs.

Why is the fresh egg donation success rate higher? Honestly, regardless of the clinical team’s skill and experience, there are touch points and opportunities for things to go wrong. From stimulation to retrieval, freezing to thawing to fertilization, even with great quality eggs we may be unable to consistently predict how many good quality embryos frozen eggs will yield.

Even though vitrification is currently the universal method of freezing, each lab has its own procedures. The egg bank has their own unique proprietary method for freezing and the receiving embryology lab has theirs for thawing. In addition to the risks associated with freezing and thawing at the lab, is the transportation risk. With most clinics, the frozen egg bank ships the eggs to the clinic. This adds the risk of the eggs improperly thawing during transportation.

On the plus side, Dr. Jain and his team’s expertise reduces the risks in frozen donor cycles. We have our own egg bank and never need to ship eggs anywhere. We also have a high touch, end-to-end approach with our in-house laboratory and embryology team but we’ll share more about that later.

Frozen Donor Egg Use Rising

Over the past five years, more and more couples have begun using frozen donor eggs. In 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lifted the “experimental” classification from egg freezing because a technique called vitrification demonstrated improved success rates. Historically, egg freezing was done with a slow-freeze method. This meant that the egg cell was cooled very slowly taking almost two hours to get to the proper freezing temperature. But studies have shown that time does matter in egg freezing. The longer it takes to freeze the egg, the more likely damaging ice crystals will form in the cell. Vitrification is a fast-freeze technique, completed in just minutes, which helps prevent ice crystal formation during the freezing process increasing the success of keeping that egg intact and healthy. With vitrification, more eggs survive the freezing and thawing process which brings more happy outcomes for patients.

Our Advanced Egg Freezing Technology

Every egg freezing cycle at Santa Monica Fertility uses the vitrification method. Our chief fertility expert, Dr. John Jain, helped pioneer the next generation of egg donation utilizing frozen donor eggs. He was instrumental in creating one of the first frozen donor egg agencies in the world. Our proprietary freezing and thawing methods are research driving and based on Dr. Jain’s award winning early research program. What all of this means for you is that Dr. Jain and his expert team are able to share those learnings and that data to achieve outstanding results for our patients using frozen donor eggs.

The live birth rate at our center for frozen donor eggs is approximately 50%, which is an exceptional rate for frozen donor eggs and comparable to other clinic’s fresh egg success rates. And our success rate for egg donation using fresh eggs is even higher—at approximately 70% per embryo also known as a blastocyst. We are incredibly proud of these rates because it means we are in a position to truly help achieve pregnancy. Our goal is to help you decide which egg donation option is right for you and by sharing our expertise, we can save you time and money and guess work. It’s why we get out of bed in the morning and why we can’t wait to get to work.

Egg Donation at Santa Monica Fertility

At Santa Monica Fertility, we offer fresh egg donation and frozen egg donation based on what is best for the individual patient. Our programs are run with the highest quality-control. All of our donors are fully screened by us rather than a donor agency. We know them. They are part of the Santa Monica Fertility family. They have often donated in the past and quite exceptionally they come back to donate with us again. They’re stimulated with an individualized protocol and they have proven, good-quality eggs.

We also offer shared donor egg cycles. Shared cycles allow intended parents to share fresh eggs with our clinic at a lower cost to them. They can even share frozen eggs that were banked in our egg bank from a previous shared cycle. Both of these options offer a significant cost savings as compared to a traditional donor cycle. And you can rest assured that those donors were highly screened as all of our donors are.

To provide the specialized care you deserve, our clinical and laboratory facilities and our entire team are all in-house and they lead the egg donation process from beginning to end with hands-on care.

In contrast, egg banks may work with donors who have not donated before, with doctors who may not individualize the stimulation protocol, and with clinics that may not be experienced with thawing. This means you may be thinking that you are choosing a quicker, less expensive option but in the end, you may not get the care you deserve and the pregnancy you are longing for.

If you’re thinking of using frozen eggs, make sure you ask questions to gather all of the information you need. We can help you with the questions to ask for your specific situation but the ideas below provide a great place to start.

Questions for egg banks:

  • How many babies have been born using frozen eggs from your donors?
  • Are your donors proven donors 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?

Questions for fertility clinics:

  • What is your live birth rate with frozen eggs?
  • How long have you been doing frozen egg IVF cycles?
  • How many frozen egg IVF cycles have you done?

We will happily answer these questions for you at your next visit to Santa Monica Fertility. Click here to book your consultation today.

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