The more you understand during your family-planning journey, the easier it is to decide between two seemingly similar processes. Enter: egg freezing and embryo freezing

They sound the same and share very similar processes, but the small differences can help someone understand which path is better for them. 

Dr. Jessica Rubin, a reproductive endocrinology & infertility specialist at Reproductive Biology Associates, emphasized this exact point while in conversation with Rescripted. 

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What's the difference between egg freezing and embryo freezing?

“Freezing eggs and freezing embryos are often confused as the same process, but they are in fact different,” shares Dr. Rubin. Adding,  “The big difference is whether the egg is fertilized — or not — before it is frozen. Egg freezing is the cryopreservation of an unfertilized egg. Embryo freezing involves fertilizing the egg before it is frozen.” 

Deciding when you want the “freezing” part of your journey to kick in comes down to a few important factors. 

Consider how much time and money you have to invest in the process 

Since embryo freezing is more of an investment than egg freezing, it can be helpful to consider which one makes the most sense for your life and goals in this given moment. 

According to Dr. Rubin, most egg freezing cycles can take about two weeks, while in comparison, freezing embryos is a bit more exhaustive and can take anywhere from three weeks to five weeks. During embryo freezing, additional testing, such as genetic testing on the embryos, adds more time to the process. 

The financial investment behind both processes can vary by state and fertility clinic, so it’s important to check in with your provider for exact details. 

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Determine where you are in your life

Traditionally, egg freezing and embryo freezing have been associated with those who are going through in vitro fertilization (IVF) because of infertility and hoping to preserve any additional eggs or embryos for future pregnancies. 

But, in the last decade or so, there has also been an uptick in the number of women who are turning to egg freezing as a way to ensure they have options for growing their family down the road. 

“Women choose to delay family building for numerous reasons, ranging from personal preference to a medical diagnosis that prevents pregnancy now,” explains Dr. Rubin. “Fertility challenges increase with age, especially for women over the age of 35. If having biological children holds significant importance for you, consult with a reproductive specialist about your options. Our current technology empowers women to preserve their fertility until they are ready for family building.” 

Taking into consideration your age, as well as your medical history and life goals can help you decide if preserving eggs or fertilized embryos is a better fit for your life. 

Dr. Rubin adds: 

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“Several factors come into play when deciding between egg and embryo freezing. If a woman is single, not ready for pregnancy and plans to be in a heterosexual relationship, egg freezing may be the best option. If a woman is in a committed relationship or wants to know the genetic health of her eggs, then embryo freezing may be her optimal choice.” 

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Decide how much information you want to have about your eggs or embryos

At its core, two things that embryo freezing offers that egg freezing does not are the ability to genetically test your embryos and the ability to choose your sperm (from either a partner or donor) in the present moment instead of in the future. 

Dr. Rubin explains: 

“Embryo freezing provides a woman with more information about the reproductive potential of her frozen gametes. If an embryo is frozen, we know if the egg fertilized and potentially the genetic testing results of the embryo.” 

Remember: there is no “right” path when it comes to navigating fertility and family planning; there’s just the path that feels right to you at any given moment. Trust your gut and care team as you ask yourself — is egg freezing or embryo freezing better for me?