'I’d rather go to Europe than spend $20K freezing my eggs.' Why I won’t be preserving my fertility.

They say we aren’t informed enough. 

That if we were only taught about fertility at school, we’d be able to make “informed decisions” about our gynaecological health.

'If only', they say, as if educating us about the pitfalls of turning 30 and having our fertility drop off with each passing year is going to send us running to egg freezers around the country.

And for some, it might. 

Maybe if women were encouraged more openly – or, hell, even financially supported – to freeze their eggs in their early 30s (or even late 20s according to one expert I spoke to), maybe we’d all increase our chances of having a baby. 

Watch: The many ways to be a mum. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

But I can’t say I’m in that camp. And I consider myself a pretty educated person.

Having worked for a gynaecological and obstetric health organisation for several years, I have a good understanding of female fertility. And now I get to write about it, interview specialists, and ask them every question under the sun. I am literally OVERLOADED with information on why I should be freezing my eggs so that one day I can have those teeny tiny humans I think I still want.


Two days ago, I came across a statistic that stopped me in my tracks.

Out of all the Australian women who go down the egg-freezing route – women who fork out anywhere from $4,500 to $10,000 on a single attempt to retrieve their eggs, and then another approximately $400 a year to keep said eggs on ice – just 15 to 20 per cent actually go on to use those eggs.

Which makes me feel a whole less guilty about going to Europe for a hot-girl summer next month, just weeks after turning 34, knowing that I currently have about a 15 per cent chance of falling pregnant naturally each month.

80-85% of women who freeze their eggs don’t use them

Honestly, the figure floored me. I really didn’t see that coming. 

We’re led to believe that freezing our eggs is the saving grace of motherhood. That if we’re good girls and inject ourselves with hormones and go through the process of having our eggs harvested early enough in our lives, we’re almost *guaranteed* a baby at the end of it. 

So why would anyone who’s spent copious amounts of cash – which could honestly hit as high as $100,000 for a 40-year-old woman if she went through the 10 cycles often needed to get the number of eggs needed to give her the best chance of pregnancy – not go through with it? 

If this all wasn’t a giant kick in the ovaries for women already, brace yourselves for the answer.


“They never found Mr Right,” Professor Michael Chapman, a senior fertility specialist at IVF Australia told Mamamia.

Dr Karin Hammarberg, a senior research fellow at the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, explained further: 

“We did a study where women had frozen their eggs and only a small proportion came back to use them,” she told Mamamia

“And there was a group of people who had not come back to use them because they hadn’t met a partner, and those were probably the saddest people because they’d had their eggs frozen for the purpose of actually using them with someone. But the reason they didn’t use them in the end was that they didn’t want to be a single mum and they didn’t want to use donor sperm.”

Another reason for not using their eggs? They’d decided to focus on their careers, said Professor Chapman.

“They might have said, ‘I froze the eggs five years ago, now I’m 40 and a managing director of a company, and having children is not what I want now.'” 

But – in the very greatest of circumstances that causes my single self to sigh with relief – one of the reasons women aren't using their frozen eggs is because they are falling pregnant naturally with a partner.

“The main reason people didn’t come back was that they had had a child without any intervention at all,” Dr Hammarberg said. 


“Most people are not going to need their frozen eggs. Most likely they’ll meet someone, do what most people do, and have their babies without using them.”

So, are women being spooked into freezing their eggs?

It's the question that now has to be asked, particularly if women are spending upwards of $10,000 on something they may never need.

Are younger women being spooked into going down the egg-freezing path unnecessarily?

“That’s my view," Professor Chapman told Mamamia. "[But] obviously, there are two sides to that story.”

So I put it to Dr Hammarberg as well. Are women being scared into freezing their eggs too early in life?

“A lot of them will be, so I think it is a big consideration,” she said, before pointing out that it may be a different situation “if you have unlimited money”.

“The dilemma here is that the younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the better the quality is going to be for those eggs, therefore they have the highest potential. But the younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the less likely you are to ever need them. So it's quite a difficult kind of thing to get your head around.”

Listen to The Quicky discuss why egg freezing is on the rise amongst young women. Post continues below.

The other very important thing to point out is how the actual f***k young women are meant to afford this.


A friend of a friend of mine is currently going through the process, paid for by her parents. The way they see it, I'm told, is that it's an investment in their grandchildren. Still, it's a whole lot of money.

But how much exactly? Professor Chapman broke it down for me.

“In any one cycle, a 30-year-old, on average, will get 10 eggs in one go,” he said. “If you’re 30 and you’ve got 10 eggs frozen, you’ve got a better than 50/50 chance for pregnancy.

“If you’re 35, you need 20 eggs to get a 50/50 chance. At 40, you need 80 eggs to get a 50/50 chance for a baby.”

But by 40, most women will only get five to eight eggs in one cycle, meaning they would “probably need 10 stimulation cycles to have that realistic view of a pregnancy”.

While prices for egg retrieval vary around Australia, ranging from around $4,500 up to $10,000 per egg collection, it could be less if the doctor believes women are freezing their eggs for a medical reason.

“If someone had a low ovarian reserve, then we can justify freezing and they can get a Medicare rebate, which is about half the price,” Professor Chapman said.

A ‘flawed’ insurance policy

But maybe I am looking at this all wrong because a lot of women around me said that it’s "hard to put a price tag on peace of mind".

Freezing their eggs has brought them comfort, and I’m so happy they feel this way, whether they use them or not.


So long as they aren’t led to believe that it’s any kind of pregnancy guarantee. 

“The whole insurance idea is a little bit flawed,” Dr Hammarberg told Mamamia. “Because it is a little bit more like a lottery. With insurance, if you make a claim, you get paid in most cases for this. But for egg freezing, it’s kind of an added opportunity. It’s one that you can’t be guaranteed is going to pay out.”

According to Dr Hammarberg, who recently wrote a paper on the chance of having a baby using frozen eggs, there is limited existing evidence. In fact, all we do know is that there is “no guarantee of a baby” and that a woman’s age at the time of freezing her eggs is a “significant determinant of a successful outcome”. 


She did, however, point to the largest study to date, which looked at the outcomes of 6,413 oocyte (frozen eggs) thaw cycles.

The live birth rate was 31.5 per cent for women over 35 at the time of freezing, 37.6 per cent for women aged 35-37, and 22.7 per cent for women aged 38-40. 

“It's going to be an increasing dilemma as more women see this use of egg freezing as something to potentially give them some degree of insurance about putting off having their baby,” Professor Chapman said. 

“As someone who's been around in the fertility field for 35 years, I find that slightly disturbing, because we should be encouraging the opposite.”

Informed and empowered

The idea of spending $20,000 to retrieve those 20 eggs for my best chance of pregnancy is still beyond the realm of possibility for me. Because, to be honest, I’d rather travel the world and leave the rest up to chance. 

It does feel a smidge selfish sometimes, and I do honestly worry that I’ll regret this decision later. But I know there are other ways to make a family, and the idea of adopting, fostering or step-mumming – when I am ready to – legitimately fills me with joy. So I’m ok with whatever happens.


So maybe they’re right. Maybe the most important part is that we are fully informed. If you can keep track of all the information.

“It’s mainly a numbers game, you see,” Dr Hammarberg said. “It's your age, it’s the number of eggs, it’s the cost. It's really a lot to put together to come to some kind of clear picture of what this kind of technology promises, and what it potentially can deliver.” 

“I think women should reach a decision about freezing eggs after a serious conversation with a fertility specialist, who will put all the pros and cons in front of them,” Professor Chapman added. “But at the end of that, if they still think that it's something they want to do to give them some degree of reassurance about the future, so be it.”

“I mean, it's not a great insurance policy, but it's relatively not that expensive. So do you buy a Chanel handbag or do you freeze your eggs?”

Like I said, it’s a hot-girl summer for me, doc.

Image: Supplied.