For the past 15-plus years, reality TV viewers have been clued in on just about everything regarding the Kardashians’ lives, including their health struggles. And the premiere of season three of The Kardashians on Hulu is no exception.
Khloé Kardashian kicks off the health conversation with a discussion of the rare melanoma in her cheek, sharing that she has nerves about the upcoming dermatological procedure. Her older sister Kourtney Kardashian chimes in that the family knows how to have fun together and lift each other up, but not how to be sad and grieve together, especially during difficult health circumstances.
The cameras then cut to Khloe walking in the room to Kourtney and husband Travis Barker on one of the beds in the house and Kourtney announcing that she’s ovulating and trying to get pregnant. Then, Kourtney tells the camera more about her long, painful journey with IVF. She explains that she had seven eggs left that she had frozen back when she was 38 or 39 — but most of her eggs didn’t survive the thaw because of the fact that eggs are just one cell. When she attempted to fertilize and implant the eggs via IVF, “None of them made it to an embryo,” she says. “The freezing of eggs isn’t guaranteed, and I think that’s a misunderstanding. People do it thinking that it’s a safety net, and it’s not.”
Kourtney goes on to emphasize that the hormones she had to take to complete the IVF cycles took a mental and physical toll on her body, and that she’s not going to put herself through that again and is instead trying to conceive without assisted reproductive technologies. She’s willing to accept whatever outcome that brings: “We have a full, blessed life and I’m happy,” Kourtney says. “We are just embracing that whatever’s meant to be will be.”
So is there truth to Kourtney’s claims about egg freezing being a gamble? Keep on reading to understand more about the process.
What is the success rate of egg freezing?
In general, there has been a jump in egg freezing cycles over the past couple of years, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). This could be partially due to the initial pause of some cycles during 2020, but the use of assisted reproductive technologies has been trending upward since 2017.
Deciding to freeze your eggs should not be something that is taken lightly, since it is a costly and involved process that’s often not covered by insurance. Before the big freeze, it entails taking daily hormone shots for almost two weeks to ensure that the body can produce as many eggs as possible during ovulation. Then, they are retrieved under a procedure with light anesthesia and then frozen for as many years as you choose, according to the ASRM.
It’s important to note that in the past, most of the research about the success rates of egg freezing was done on women in their twenties or early thirties. Previous studies suggested that egg freezing might only result in one live birth for 2 to 12% of people under the age of 38, even if most of their eggs do survive the freeze. So Kourtney Kardashian, at age 44, is correct in that she is already at a disadvantage.
Newer research is a bit more promising when it comes to people over 40 conceiving as a result of egg freezing. A 2022 study by the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the NYU Langone Fertility Center found that 39% of people between the ages of 27 and 44 had a baby from their frozen eggs. The odds were higher if they were under 38 years old when they froze their eggs and had 20 or more frozen eggs to work with, but these statistics are overall much higher than even seven years ago.
Is it worth freezing eggs?
Generally speaking, frozen eggs can be more difficult to work with than frozen embryos, for instance, because they are only one cell and are not as far along in the reproductive process as embryos, per UCLA Health. So only six or eight egg cells total may survive the freezing process, as Kardashian mentioned on camera. Some people with a partner or sperm donor who are choosing to delay having children may choose to freeze some eggs and some embryos to up their chances of getting pregnant at a later date. Others who are waiting to find the right partner may freeze just their eggs in their late twenties or thirties.
Regardless of your choice, there is not a guarantee that you will get pregnant from freezing your eggs, but there is still a chance – that could be worth taking, according to more recent research.
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