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  • Should You Freeze Your Eggs If You’re Not Ready to Have Kids

    Dawn Davenport

    13

    Egg freezing seems to be in the air. Lately, I’ve been hearing from single woman who are considering freezing their eggs because they know

    Should you freeze your eggs to preserve your fertility?

    Is freezing your eggs all its cracked up to be? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    they want kids, but would prefer to have a partner in parenting. I’ve also heard from a few married women, who think they want to be a mom someday, just not now. They want to keep their options open. Of course, we also hear more frequently from women who have come to the end of fertility treatment with their own eggs, and are turning to frozen egg banks to find donor eggs.

    The icing on the cake, so to speak, was when I ran into an acquaintance with three adult children in their later 20s through mid 30s who wanted my advice on if she should suggest they (or their wife) freeze their eggs since they didn’t seem in any hurry to have children.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to yesterday’s show on Egg Freezing for Fertility Preservation and Egg Donation, with Dr. Daniel Shapiro, Medical Director of Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta and Clinical Manager of My Egg Bank; and Dr. Pat McShane, Associate Director of Fertility Preservation at the University of Colorado Hospital and Medical Director of The World Egg Bank.

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    Many Ask; Not So Many Follow Through

    When the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) took the experimental label off of egg freezing last year, many were concerned that this would herald a rush of women opting for this procedure to extend their childbearing years. ASRM was clear that they were not recommending this. At least so far, they need not worry. While the interest in egg freezing to extend reproductive years is high, according to the experts on yesterday’s show, not that many women are actually doing it.

    Who Considers Egg Freezing

    Dr. Dan Shapiro said that the typical woman who calls a reproductive endocrinologist for information on egg freezing is 37 to 38 years old and has had some form of psychological shock. This “shock” might be the ending of a relationship, the death of a partner, losing a job, or something to make her take stock and question where her life is going.

    Harder Than You Imagine

    The reality of freezing your eggs discourages many women. Egg freezing begins the same way an in vitro fertilization cycle. A woman injects herself with strong ovulatory stimulation medications to force her ovaries to produce many eggs, rather than the usual one egg per month. Once her eggs are ripe, they are surgically removed, usually under general anesthesia, by a needle inserted through the back of the vagina. Let’s just say it’s not a walk in the park.

    Costlier Than You Imagine

    Egg freezing is as stressful to the wallet as it is on the body. Costs vary by region and infertility clinic, but range from around $10-15,000 to freeze the eggs and around $500- 1,000 each year for storage. Of course, you also have to factor in the cost on the other end to thaw and fertilize the egg, grow the embryos, then transfer back into the uterus with the hope of implantation. Add in another $5-7,5000 to cover these costs.

    The Catch 22

    Egg freezing to preserve fertility is most successful with younger women, but many younger women aren’t ready to think about it and often can’t afford it.  Younger women still hope to find their Prince Charming and have kids the usual way with a bottle of wine, candles, and no doctors, unless Mr. P. Charming happens to be one. Why would they want to spend $10-15,000 that they likely don’t have, just on the chance that they will someday need to use their frozen eggs?

    What usually happens, as Dr. Shapiro said, is that women end up hoping and waiting until they are in their late 30s and something happens to give them a wake up call. While research is showing that older eggs can be successfully frozen and thawed, the chances of a pregnancy and live birth are totally dependent on the age of the eggs when frozen, and older eggs means less chance of getting pregnant. To further add salt into the wound, women in their late 30s usually have to use more of the expensive ovulatory stimulation medications to force their ovaries into producing more eggs, and even with medication older ovaries simply don’t produce as many eggs.

    Egg Banks for Donor Eggs

    While egg freezing for preserving fertility is not recommended, this technology is changing the face of egg donation. With pregnancy rates approaching or equal to fresh donor egg cycles and costs often substantially less, more couples are turning to frozen egg banks when looking for an egg donor. Using an egg bank is also more convenient since frozen eggs bypass the need to synch cycles with an egg donor.

    Another benefit to egg banks is that fewer excess embryos will be created. Generally a woman or couple buys the number of eggs from the egg bank to fertilize for one transfer. In traditional egg donation, couples often end up with many excess embryos since all the eggs retrieved from the donor (and this is often a substantial number since donors are at the peak of their fertility) are fertilized.

    Godsend for Cancer Patients

    One of the best uses of egg freezing is for cancer patients, particularly younger women, who aren’t in a permanent relationship. It is not always possible or recommended for a cancer patient to freeze her eggs prior to treatment, but when it is possible it keeps the hope of biological children alive. We will be doing a Creating a Family show on Getting Pregnant After Cancer in the fall. (To receive notice of this show, sign up for our bi-weekly e-newsletter at the bottom of this blog.)

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    Freezing your eggs to preserve your fertility isn’t something to be entered into lightly or cheaply, but for those who know they want children but for whatever reason must wait or really want to wait, the advancements in this technology seem miraculous. If nothing else they will know that they’ve done everything they can to keep the option of genetically related parenting open. Just remember, there are no guarantees.

    So, what do you think? Would you? Should you?

    Image credit: eurovision_nicola

    29/08/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 13 Comments



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    13 Responses to Should You Freeze Your Eggs If You’re Not Ready to Have Kids

    1. Ella says:

      Thank you Dawn. This is a very informative article especially for a woman like me. I am 28 and I am not ready to have a child yet. And indeed having this option is like having a back up plan for the future. I would gladly read more about this topic to know more about the odds in having my eggs freeze.

      • Ella, listen to the audio radio show embedded in the blog. We talked about the odds of a successful pregnancy (full term and healthy baby). It depends on the age of the woman when the eggs were frozen and the quality of the cyropreservation facility/lab.

    2. Louisa says:

      I am 39 and just froze my eggs (two cycles). The whole process was much easier than I anticipated, and my insurance paid for half of the cost. I’d delayed making the decision for a while but I’m glad I finally did it. I’m not sure if I want to have kids; regardless, I’m at a point in my career when it would not be advantageous to have kids. Freezing eggs is a bit of an insurance policy, although I realize the eggs might not work if/when I want to use them in a few years.

    3. Leslie says:

      I think egg freezing is risky and gives women a false sense of security – if you wait to use those eggs until you are in your late 30s or early 40s, and they don’t work, you will find yourself with only old eggs to use. If you really want a child, my opinion is that you should just try to have one and do it on your own – and get your fertility tests done at age 30, 32, 35 because when I was doing donor egg in my 40s I saw many women in their mid 30s who had already found out their eggs were no good.

    4. Leslie, you raise a great point and one the infertility medical community worries and talks about. But how many 30 year old woman do you know who think they will need to freeze their eggs? And those who do think they may need to freeze them, how many can afford to?

    5. Leslie says:

      Moms – thinking they’ll just freeze their eggs and it will give them time to try to find Mr Right and security. But those of us who have already gone the fertility route know that there are no guarantees that any eggs will work. And yes it’s expensive – better to spend that money actually trying to get ph

    6. Leslie says:

      I belong to the group Single Mothers by Choice – for women who decide to become moms on their own – this discussion comes up for women who are thinkers – want kids, not sure they’re ready to become m

    7. Sue says:

      I actually think that egg freezing will become more affordable – and people will think of it as a reasonable backup plan/insurance (although it is not 100% effective, it improves the odds greatly). Many people in their late 20s aren’t ready to be parents, but know they want to some day. I don’t think telling them to be parents now is always a reasonable choice- but freezing eggs in your late 20s makes a LOT of sense. The thaw and fertilization rates are quite remarkable. If I were in my 20s today, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

      And BTW, the cost of doing a freeze cycle abroad in CZ can be pretty affordable – around $1000 to just retrieve/freeze the eggs (not including meds) and you are there a few days to a week if you can start meds and do some monitoring locally before you go. You pay the fertilization and transfer fees later when you are ready to use them. And storage is around $100 per year. One of the clinics I worked with did a presentation at ESHRE and are reporting: “We vitrified more than 1000 oocytes and warm more than 700. Survival rate is 93 % and with donated vitrified eggs the pregnancy rate is 65 % and clinical pregnancy rate is 51 %.”

    8. Sue, wouldn’t you be required to go back abroad to have the eggs fertilized and transferred? I agree with you that egg freezing will likely change the face of infertility treatment in the future. Not sure how I feel about it being used as an insurance policy for young women, but I totally get that many young and not so young women are caught between a rock and a hard place. They need solutions and solutions are hard to come by.

    9. Sue says:

      Well, you could ship them here or go back. Most would probably go back for that when they are ready.

    10. Sue says:

      Btw, I view it more as a backup plan than insurance because it is certainly not a guarantee, but it should improve your odds later on.

    11. Catherine says:

      As long as you understand your true odds, which will never be close to 100%, and are OK with that, then it seems like a reasonable choice to me.

    12. “Back up plan” is a good way to look at it. And yes, Catherine, so long as women go in with their eyes wide open I would agree with you.

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