Ahh… the million dollar question. This is perhaps the most common question asked of fertility doctors and, unfortunately, one of the hardest to answer. The simple response is the more eggs harvested the better the odds of conception. And the younger the woman, the better the quality and quantity of healthy eggs produced. But, how many eggs will you produce? Ovarian reserve tests and ultrasounds are solid indicators of the number of anticipated eggs. However, the number of frozen eggs necessary to become pregnant, again, depends on your individual situation.
Dr. Licciardi of NYU Fertility Center succinctly answers this question:
“The too obvious answer is the more the better. However 10-15 is a good yield. More than that is a bonus. It is true 30 may be better than 15, but most women do not make 30 so that should not be your goal. Estimates in the 10-15 range usually do not prompt much patient/doctor discussion, however when the estimate is lower, the talks become more frequent and important.”
Dr. Eve Feinberg of the Fertility Centers of Illinois has a similar response:
“We are starting to get more data from the use of frozen donor eggs and egg banks. Based on data that came out of IVI (Instituto Valenciana de Infertilidad), they determined that the optimal number of eggs for a woman under 30 is 6. From 6 high quality eggs, we tend to get four high quality embryos. However, as women get older the number of eggs needed will increase due to diminished egg quality. I counsel my patients who are in their mid-30s that 15 eggs to achieve one live birth is probably a safe bet. Is it an exact science? No, there is no data that is published, but if you look at maturity rates, fertilization rates, embryo development rates in general you are going to see 80% maturity, 75%-80% fertilization and 50% blastocyst development and on average two blastocysts equal one baby. Therefore, the attrition rate is such that somewhere around 15 eggs will equal one child.”
As you can see from both Dr. Licciardi’s and Dr. Feinberg’s response, there is no magic number. It is a game of odds and your best bet is to ensure that the eggs you do produce are as healthy as they can possibly be. This means heeding your Doctor’s advice and eliminating alcohol and caffeine in the weeks or months prior to your retrieval. Also, try to remain calm and eliminate stress which, of course, is easier said that done in the anxiety-ridden pre-retrieval period. Above all, be kind to yourself and don’t dwell upon the number of eggs you freeze. After all, your focus should be on egg quality over quantity.