Coming to terms with the fact that your childbearing years have an expiration date is a kick in the face. Although we’re all aware fertility declines with time, many women aren’t ready to undergo pregnancy and dive into motherhood during their prime. And with the mounting costs of raising a child, thousands think they should hold it off.
Thus, we’ve seen considerable growth in egg freezing worldwide. But how much does egg freezing cost in Canada? And is it as physically and emotionally taxing as they say?
Let’s find out!
How Much Does Freezing Eggs Cost in Canada?
If you’ve thought that the cost to freeze eggs will do a number on your bank balance, you’d be right!
Although costs can vary depending on the clinic, the price is usually in the $10,000 ballpark. But that’s not the full extent! In fact, you’ll also need to factor in about $300 per year to store your eggs and approximately $6,000 for a single In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle.
Overall, the average cost of egg freezing will come to about $20,000 to $30,000, depending on how long you’ll keep your eggs in storage and how many IVF cycles you’ll have to do. Considering that the greatest percentage of IVF success occurs in 6 cycles, you’ll be looking at a hefty price.
Does Insurance Cover This Procedure?
Unfortunately, women who opt for egg freezing typically pay for their fertility treatments out of pocket.
However, some provinces in Canada, like Ontario, offer coverage for one IVF cycle per patient, per lifetime through the Ontario Fertility Program (OFP). Eligibility requirements state that you must be under the age of 43 and have an OHIP card.
New Brunswick also offers a one-time grant that covers 50% of your IVF costs, up to a maximum of $5,000, while Manitoba provides tax credits of 40% for fertility treatments, up to a maximum of $8,000 per year.
Quebec also offers tax credits to those who do not already have children and is currently attempting to bring back publicly funded IVF, making this medical procedure available to everyone.
Even though Prince Edward Island does not have any IVF clinics, it provides up to $10,000 a year to couples travelling out of the province for treatments.
What is Egg Freezing?
Since roughly 16% of Canadian couples experience infertility at some point in their lives, it’s no surprise many are looking for alternative ways of conception to yield better results.
Although egg freezing as a technology has been around for over 30 years, it has only recently started gaining this much traction. But what does freezing your eggs mean?
Egg freezing is the process of extracting, freezing, and storing a woman’s eggs (oocytes) in order to use them later for fertility purposes. The eggs are then thawed, fertilized with sperm, and transferred into the womb as embryos.
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
After discovering what freezing eggs will cost you, let’s discuss how the procedure works.
At the crux of it, egg freezing is a way of preserving a woman’s fertility at the peak of her reproductive years, enabling her to become pregnant in the future when her eggs might not be of the highest quality.
Following the obligatory screening and assessment, where you’ll be tested for infectious diseases, your OBGYN will prescribe you fertility medication to help mature multiple eggs in your ovaries.
You will administer this medication yourself through injections that will suppress your hormones and control your ovulation for at least 10-14 days.
Then comes the egg harvesting process (or egg retrieval), where your doctor will extract about 15 eggs through a minor surgical procedure, which takes around 20-30 minutes.
Finally, your eggs will be flash-frozen using a process called vitrification, which is done to prevent ice crystal formation that can damage the eggs. Once frozen, the eggs will be stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius.
When you decide to use them, they will be thawed, and the surviving eggs will be injected with a partner’s (or donor’s) sperm.
When’s The Right Time?
So at what age should you freeze your eggs?
Although you might’ve heard the phrase “the younger, the better”, it’s not always the case. Doctors usually recommend you do it before your 35th birthday, which will give you the highest probability of success. But according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the most common age that women freeze their eggs is 38.
However, you must be mindful and avoid doing it when you’re too young, as eggs have a 10-year storage limit, and you might not be ready for a child by then.
If you’re unsure when you should embark on this journey, talk to your OBGYN and ask for their professional advice.
You might be interested: How Much Do Doctors Make in Canada?
What Are The Success Rates?
While the technology has been improving rapidly, only 19% of IVF treatments with frozen eggs result in live births. Since the egg freezing process is highly invasive, requiring hydration, freezing, storing, and thawing, many eggs are lost on the way.
Fortunately, though, because of vitrification, over 90% of eggs survive the thawing process when the woman is under 35, so not everything is bleak!
Consequently, if you freeze your eggs at the peak of your reproductive years, you’ll have much higher chances of success and won’t require more than one cycle of harvesting.
Any Common Side Effects?
Because you’re undergoing a medical procedure and subsequent surgery, you might encounter some side effects. However, they’re usually on the milder side and don’t overtly interfere with your daily life.
As a result of the medication and surgery, you may experience things like:
- Mood swings
However, call your doctor immediately if you experience:
- A high-grade fever
- Difficulty urinating
- Abnormal weight gain in 24 hours
- Heavy bleeding
- Severe abdominal pain
As with all procedures, there is always risk involved. Luckily, the egg harvesting process doesn’t come with a tidal wave of contraindications.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Egg Freezing
Unsurprisingly, there are good and bad aspects to consider when going through the egg freezing process.
You might be drawn to freezing your eggs because:
- You can delay childbearing until you’re mentally, physically, and financially ready
- You can have a backup plan in case you experience infertility later in life
- You can increase your chances of having a baby if you opt for IVF at a later date.
However, there are also some disadvantages you should be aware of before deciding, such as:
- It’s a costly procedure with no guarantee of success
- There’s a risk of complications during the egg retrieval surgery (although small)
- You may have to undergo multiple IVF cycles to get pregnant later on.
Remember that freezing your eggs is a life-altering decision that comes with its own set of pros and cons. Be sure to do your research and consult with a fertility specialist before you make any decisions.
With average costs in double-digit thousands, freezing your eggs in Canada shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although some provinces offer financial assistance for undergoing fertility treatments, the plans sometimes don’t cover the total cost.
Ultimately, ensure you do thorough research and consult with a fertility specialist before making any decisions.
Generally, frozen egg survival rates fall between 80% and 90%, whereas fertilization rates are between 70% and 80%. Moreover, clinical pregnancy and live birth rates from frozen eggs show similar success rates to those from fresh eggs.
Nobody can tell you whether to freeze your eggs, as this is a highly personal decision. The egg freezing process is strenuous, financially burdensome, and mentally and physically draining. Therefore, you should weigh the pros and cons individually and equip yourself with all the needed information before deciding.
Medical professionals consider your twenties and early thirties the optimal time to freeze your eggs because of the healthier eggs and the higher ovarian reserve. However, depending on your overall health, you can freeze your eggs later than your 30s and still make use of them.
You can expect to pay approximately $1,000 for embryo freezing and an additional $1,500 per frozen-thaw embryo transfer cycle.
Egg freezing involves injecting hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once it does, your doctor will retrieve the eggs from your ovaries and take them to the lab to cool at subzero temperatures. Finally, the eggs will be thawed at a later date.