Pu­blished: 9. Fe­bruary 2022 | Up­dated: 14. De­cember 2023 Author: An­drea Helten | Re­viewed by An­drea Helten

So­cial Free­zing: pro­ce­dure & risks

What is So­cial Free­zing?

So­cial free­zing, also known as cryo­p­re­ser­va­tion in me­dical ter­mi­no­logy, re­fers to the pre­cau­tio­nary pro­cess of har­ve­s­ting and then free­zing un­fer­ti­lized eggs wi­t­hout me­dical ne­ces­sity. With this me­thod, women can pre­vent their age-re­lated loss of fer­ti­lity and fulfil their de­sire to have children at a later date by “tha­wing” the eggs again.

How does so­cial free­zing work?

Social Freezing

Usually, the pro­cess of so­cial free­zing be­gins with the first con­sul­ta­tion at a fer­ti­lity clinic. Preli­mi­nary me­dical ex­ami­na­tions then take place on site. After hor­monal sti­mu­la­tion, se­veral eggs are re­moved du­ring the cryo­p­re­ser­va­tion then shock-frozen (vi­tri­fi­ca­tion) and stored in the la­bo­ra­tory for a very long time.

Step 1: Preli­mi­nary ex­ami­na­tion

After a de­tailed preli­mi­nary dis­cus­sion with ex­perts, with re­pro­duc­tive phy­si­cians or fer­ti­lity doc­tors, the next step is a preli­mi­nary me­dical ex­ami­na­tion using blood va­lues (hor­mone ba­lance) and ul­tra­sound. The doctor will check whe­ther the ne­ces­sary re­qui­re­ments for so­cial free­zing are ful­filled (pro­ba­bi­lity of suc­cess / chances) and in­form you about pos­sible risks of the tre­at­ment. Other un­cer­tain­ties can be cla­ri­fied in ad­vance by a spe­cia­list.

Step 2: Pre­pa­ring for hor­monal sti­mu­la­tion

If you meet all the re­qui­re­ments after the preli­mi­nary ex­ami­na­tions, a date will be set for the start of the sti­mu­la­tion. The plan for both the du­ra­tion and do­sage du­ring the hor­monal sti­mu­la­tion of the ova­ries is drawn up in ad­vance tog­e­ther with the doctor. The hor­mone do­sage de­pends on the ova­rian re­serve. How large this re­serve is can be de­ter­mined using the level of the Anti-Mül­le­rian Hor­mone (AMH). You can test your AMH level from the com­fort of your own home with our self-test. As the cor­re­spon­ding me­di­ca­tion is only available on pre­scrip­tion, you will re­ceive a doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion with pro­fes­sional in­s­truc­tions. Sche­dule en­ough time to re­ceive the me­di­ca­tion (usually in­jec­tions) to be able to start on time.

Step 3: Hor­monal sti­mu­la­tion

Du­ring a cer­tain pe­riod of time, which often lasts bet­ween 10–14 days, you in­ject the pre­scribed hor­mone pre­pa­ra­tion at home. The hor­monal sti­mu­la­tion should lead to as many eggs as pos­sible ma­tu­ring by the time of re­trieval. In order to mo­nitor the growth of the fol­licles and keep an eye on the hor­mone le­vels, re­gular check-ups are car­ried out via ul­tra­sound and blood sam­pling. This also helps to de­ter­mine whe­ther the do­sage should be ch­anged and iden­tify the per­fect time to re­trieve the ma­tured eggs. After this de­ter­mi­na­tion, a hor­mone is in­jected once (“trigger shot”) to trigger ovu­la­tion. Once ovu­la­tion has been suc­cessfully trig­gered, the doctor can begin the coll­ec­tion pro­ce­dure.

Step 4: Re­trieval of the eggs

In order to re­trieve the ma­tured eggs, you will have to go to your ac­com­panying fer­ti­lity clinic (usually one day) after the last in­jec­tion. You will be ex­amined again and in­formed about the next steps. After a me­dical con­sul­ta­tion, you will then be taken to an ope­ra­ting theatre where the re­trieval will be car­ried out under a short an­es­thesia. The pro­ce­dure is usually minor and only takes about 15–30 mi­nutes. Du­ring this time, the doctor re­moves the fol­licles from the ova­ries by so-called “va­ginal fol­licle punc­ture”. Fol­licles, which con­tain a ma­ture egg, are “su­cked out” th­rough a very thin needle. Fol­lo­wing this short pro­cess, you will be taken to a quiet room to wake up and rest until you are ready to go home. For your own safety, you will need to be pi­cked-up by a person of your choice due to the (al­beit short) ge­neral an­es­thesia.

Step 5: Free­zing (vi­tri­fi­ca­tion) of the eggs

After the fol­licles have been coll­ected, a spe­cia­list bio­lo­gist will ex­amine how many of them con­tain a ma­ture egg. Sui­table oo­cytes are then frozen wi­thin a few se­conds at ‑196°C (“shock free­zing”). Me­di­cally, this pro­ce­dure is also called “vi­tri­fi­ca­tion”. This me­thod of­fers many ad­van­tages, as on the one hand it does not da­mage the cells and on the other hand has a very high, al­most risk-free “res­to­ra­tion rate” (98%).

Step 6: Sto­ring the eggs

The good thing is that you can safely store your vi­tri­fied eggs for se­veral years, even de­cades. The greater the number of eggs stored, the greater the chance of pregnancy at a later date and thus of ful­fil­ling your per­sonal wish to have a child.
When the time is right for you, the eggs are thawed again and can then be fer­ti­lized.

After so­cial free­zing: usage of the eggs

You can de­cide for yourself if and when you want to thaw the eggs for use. If you cannot get pregnant na­tu­rally, you can have an in vitro fe­ri­li­sa­tion (IVF or ICSI). This in­volves fer­ti­li­sing the eggs with the man’s sperm cells. Once cell di­vi­sion has begun, the fer­ti­lised egg can be in­serted into the uterus. De­spite the high pro­ba­bi­lity of suc­cess of achie­ving a pregnancy with the help of so­cial free­zing even at a late age, there is no gua­rantee of an un­com­pli­cated fa­mily for­ma­tion. Com­pli­ca­tions can occur for a va­riety of re­asons, which is why spe­cia­list care is al­ways re­com­mended.

Pos­sible risks with so­cial free­zing

So­cial Free­zing is as­so­ciated with few risks and is ra­ther harm­less. Apart from the in­creased li­keli­hood of a mul­tiple pregnancy with in vitro fer­ti­li­sa­tion, there re­main pos­sible com­pli­ca­tions that pregnancy at an older age can bring: in­creased sus­cep­ti­bi­lity to ge­sta­tional dia­betes or high blood pres­sure.

At the same time, some risks are eli­mi­nated or greatly mi­ni­mised in a pregnancy re­sul­ting from so­cial free­zing if the eggs were cryo­p­re­served at the youn­gest pos­sible age: ge­netic mal­for­ma­tions or a high risk of mis­car­riage due to age.

About Fer­tilly

At Fer­tilly, we have made it our mis­sion to ac­com­pany cou­ples (ho­mo­se­xual and he­te­ro­se­xual) and sin­gles on the way to ful­fil­ling their child wish. In doing so, it is im­portant to us to create trans­pa­rency in the area of fer­ti­lity ser­vices, to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and know­ledge on the to­pics of pregnancy and fer­ti­lity and to help you to find the most sui­table Fer­ti­lity Center. Th­rough co­ope­ra­tion with first-class Fer­ti­lity Cen­tres and cli­nics in Eu­rope, en­qui­ries about Fer­tilly are given pre­fe­ren­tial tre­at­ment. This means that our pa­ti­ents avoid the usually long wai­ting times and get ap­point­ments more quickly.

If you would like more in­for­ma­tion about Fer­ti­lity Cen­ters, suc­cess rates and prices, please contact us using this ques­ti­on­n­aire. We will ad­vise you free of charge and wi­t­hout any ob­li­ga­tion.

  • Answer the first ques­tions in the on­line form in order to book an ap­point­ment. This way we can better ad­dress your needs du­ring the con­ver­sa­tion.

  • We will find the best contact person for your in­di­vi­dual needs. Sche­dule 20 mi­nutes for the con­sul­ta­tion.

  • We will in­tro­duce you to the right fer­ti­lity clinic from our net­work, make an ap­point­ment and ac­com­pany you until your wish for a child is ful­filled.

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1. https://www.spiegel.de/gesundheit/schwangerschaft/einfrieren-der-eizellen-so-funktioniert-social-freezing-a-997312.html
2. https://www.social-freezing-info.de/ablauf-social-freezing-behandlung-was-kostet-social-freezing
3. F. Naw­roth: Re­pro­duk­ti­ons­me­dizin. Vi­tri­fi­ka­tion. Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stutt­gart · New York. 2015; 75(09): 883–886.
4. Deut­sches IVF-Re­gister. In: J Re­pro­duk­ti­onsmed En­do­krinol. 9 (6), 2012, S. 453–484
5. A. Cobo, V. Serra: Ob­ste­tric and pe­ri­natal out­co­meof ba­bies born from vi­tri­fied oo­cytes. Fer­ti­lity and Ste­ri­lity. 102, Nr. 4, Okt 2014.
6. N. Noyes, E. Porcu, A. Bo­rini: Over 900 oo­cyte cryo­p­re­ser­va­tion ba­bies born with no ap­pa­rent in­crease in con­ge­ni­tal­an­oma­lies. Re­prod Biomed On­line. 18, Nr. 6, 2009.