If you have made the leap to using donor eggs, choosing between fresh or frozen eggs for IVF is one of the first steps in the process. In this blog, we dive into a detailed comparsion of fresh vs frozen donor eggs, broken down by success rates, cost, timeline, and other factors. At Donor Nexus, we provide recipients with access to a variety of fresh egg donors and we also have a top-rated frozen egg bank.
Originally the only option available, using fresh donor eggs is still a popular option today. However, using frozen donor eggs has also been growing in popularity over the past decade due to advancements in egg freezing technology using the vitrification process.
In a fresh egg donor cycle, the eggs are retrieved from the egg donor and immediately fertilized by sperm (from the male partner or donor) in a laboratory. Next, in about 5-6 days after the egg retrieval, 1-2 of the resulting embryo(s) are transferred into the uterus of the recipient or the embryos are biopsied and sent for preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A). The recipient is typically the intended mother but in some cases may be a gestational carrier, also known as a surrogate.
In a frozen donor egg cycle, the eggs are retrieved from the egg donor then frozen using the vitrification process and stored until they are needed. Frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely. Once a recipient is ready for the frozen eggs, the eggs are carefully thawed and fertilized by ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) with the designated sperm to create embryos. The embryos are grown in a laboratory for 3-6 days and then transferred into the prospective mother or designated gestational carrier.
Whether using fresh or frozen donor eggs, the goal is for the embryo to implant in the lining of the uterus to create a pregnancy.
Let’s get right into what matters most: having a baby! It’s important to research the success rates of your chosen fertility clinic and/or egg bank, particularly with frozen cycles, to make sure that the clinic is well equipped in handling frozen eggs.
Generally, using fresh donor eggs has a higher success rate than using frozen donor eggs.
The national average success rate (live birth rate) for IVF using fresh donor eggs in 2018 was 57.1%, according to the CDC and 49.4% according to Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). As of 2022, the Donor Nexus fresh donor egg cycle live birth rate is 67.6%.
The national average success rate (live birth rate) for IVF using frozen donor eggs in 2018 was 44.2%, according to the CDC and 39.3% according to Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). As of 2022, the Donor Nexus frozen donor egg cycle live birth rate is 48.5%.
At Donor Nexus, we are able to ship frozen donor eggs throughout the US (excluding New York) and internationally. In order to provide superior outcomes to our patients, we are selective in which fertility clinics we partner with and will only allow frozen donor eggs from our egg bank to be sent to the best clinics worldwide.
It’s no secret that there are many costs involved with IVF and donor-assisted reproduction treatments. When using donor eggs for IVF, frozen eggs typically cost less than fresh eggs per cycle. How much do frozen donor eggs cost? At Donor Nexus, using frozen donor eggs starts at $18,000 USD.
However, as stated above, it’s important to take the success rates of your chosen fertility clinic into consideration. If you end up needing more cycles with frozen donor eggs, the cost per birth may not end up being less than using a fresh egg donor.
The length of time it takes from start to finish may be an important factor to consider, depending on your situation. Generally, using frozen donor eggs is quicker than using a fresh egg donor. A frozen donor egg cycle typically only takes 6 to 8 weeks whereas a fresh cycle takes 2 to 4 months.
Traditionally, a fresh donor egg cycle would require the egg donor and recipient to take specific hormones to synchronize their menstrual cycles to ensure that the recipient’s uterus is ready for the eggs as soon as the donor has reached ovulation. Nowadays, only a small portion of recipients have a fresh transfer. Most clinics cycle the egg donor, create embryos, and freeze the good embryos before starting the recipient mother or gestational carrier (GC) on medications. However, the timeline is longer because a fresh egg donor cycle requires the donor to complete her prescreening evaluations (which generally takes 1-2 months) before starting her stimulation medications to retrieve and freeze her eggs.
During a frozen donor egg cycle, the donor has already completed and passed her prescreening evaluations, taken the medications and completed the egg retrieval. This means there is less time spent waiting and the cycle can begin almost immediately.
Timeline for Egg Banking:
If you select a fresh egg donor for egg banking, the process may take a bit longer since the egg donor will need to be screened and complete an egg retrieval cycle. Usually the process takes 3-5 months from the time you select the egg donor to when the eggs arrive at your designated fertility clinic.
It’s important to note that frozen donor egg cycles are more straightforward and have less risk of delay or cancellation than fresh donor egg cycles. When choosing a fresh egg donor, there are many external factors that could cause delays or cancellation of the cycle. These unforeseen scenarios, although rare, can and do occur:
With a frozen donor egg cycle, the donor’s work is already done. Since she has already successfully gone through the egg donation cycle and retrieval, there is no need to worry about the above external factors. From our experience, about 20% of egg donors do not make it through the screening process.
Generally, selecting a fresh egg donor cycle will provide the intended parent(s) with a larger amount of eggs than a frozen donor egg cycle. This is because in a fresh one-to-one cycle, the intended parent(s) receive all of the eggs retrieved. The average number of eggs retrieved in one cycle is 24, with 21 being mature, usable eggs. Surplus embryos can be frozen and stored for future use, donated to be used by other patients, or discarded.
The amount of frozen donor eggs received per cycle depends on the agency or clinic. At Donor Nexus, our Frozen Donor Egg Cycles include a cohort of 6 mature eggs. If the donor has more eggs available and the recipient is interested, more eggs may be thawed.
As the traditional route, IVF using fresh donor eggs generally provides the intended parent(s) with a wider selection of egg donors and program options. At Donor Nexus, our fresh programs include one-to-one cycles and shared egg donor cycles.
In a one-to-one cycle, the intended parent(s) receive all the eggs retrieved from the donor. As stated earlier, the average number of eggs retrieved in one cycle is 24, with 21 being mature, usable eggs.
Shared egg donor cycles allow for one egg donor to be matched with two or more recipient parties to reduce the overall cost of IVF. In most cases, egg donors produce more eggs than needed for one recipient. We have found that 6 mature eggs give intended parents a success rate of almost 80%. Therefore, one egg donor cycle can provide more than enough eggs for two and sometimes three families without compromising the success rates.
In an IVF cycle with frozen donor eggs, the intended parent(s) will typically choose an egg donor who has already had her eggs retrieved and cryopreserved. Unlike most agencies, Donor Nexus aims to accommodate intended parent(s) by providing an option for egg banking. Egg banking allows the intended parent(s) to choose a fresh egg donor to freeze her eggs to be used for the frozen donor egg cycle.
At Donor Nexus, we will thaw until we have at least six viable eggs. The number of donor eggs thawed are dependent on the number of donor eggs available and the number of eggs you request. Most of our frozen egg donors have 10-20 frozen donor eggs available. Additionally, we are able to ship the cohort of frozen donor eggs throughout the United States (excluding New York) and internationally. Once the eggs are received by your IVF clinic, they will handle the thawing process before fertilization and transfer.
Ultimately, choosing between fresh or frozen donor eggs is dependent on your specific situation. If you are unsure which is best for you, we recommend consulting with your IVF physician. We hope you found this comparison helpful in understanding fresh vs frozen egg donors. If you have any additional questions, our team is here to help.