Should I Freeze My Eggs? If So, When?
“Should I freeze my eggs?” and the related question of “If so, when?” are big questions for a woman who wants to have a baby, even if she is planning to wait to start her family. When deciding if egg freezing is a means to build her family, a woman must first consider her age, life goals and plans, and the financial cost of the process.
Did you know that a baby girl is born with up to 2 million eggs? Most of those will die off naturally (just like our skin and hair cells die) so by puberty, there are typically about half a million healthy eggs left. As a woman continues to age through her 20’s and into her 30’s, the eggs die off more quickly. The quality of the remaining eggs also declines. For this reason, it is biologically easier for a woman to become pregnant before her 30’s.
Why Would I Consider Freezing My Eggs?
As you and your eggs are aging, your life is also unfolding. It is completely likely that other factors like career-building, relationships (or lack thereof), or other health issues will become topics to consider when deciding on the right time to start your family. If you need or want to postpone getting pregnant, elective freezing of your eggs is an option to talk over with your reproductive specialist.
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
The process to freeze your eggs starts out much like a typical IVF procedure. It involves a course of 10-12 daily injections of IVF medication to force more eggs to mature that month, along with regular blood work and ultrasounds to monitor progress. The retrieval of the matured eggs is called harvesting and is typically done under light anesthesia. An embryologist will check the eggs for viability, and the healthy eggs will be frozen. They can be kept frozen indefinitely until you decide to use them to try to get pregnant.
To use the eggs for a pregnancy, they must be thawed in an embryology lab, fertilized with sperm, and then transferred to the woman’s uterus. If the embryo implants then the woman will be pregnant.
At What Age Should You Freeze Your Eggs?
Egg freezing was found to result in the “highest probability of live births” when using eggs that were frozen before a woman turns 34 years old. Interestingly, egg freezing is considered most cost effective when a woman freezes her eggs at 37 years old. So if you are in your 30’s you should start planning and thinking seriously about your options.
There’s No Guarantee Egg Freezing Will Work.
It’s important to remember that even in younger women (meaning women less than 38 years old), the chance that one frozen egg will yield a baby in the future is in the range of 2 to 12%. As women get older and egg quality decreases, successful pregnancy rates per frozen egg decreases further also. You must go into this procedure with all the facts, and remember that freezing your eggs doesn’t guarantee a baby.
It’s equally important that you understand the physical, medical and emotional risks of pregnancy and of parenting at an older age. For these reasons and more, it’s vital that you seek the counsel and treatment of a trusted reproductive endocrinologist (an infertility doctor) to help you be informed and comfortable with all the available facts about the procedures and outcomes.
How Would I Pay for Egg Freezing?
The cost of egg-freezing is another factor to consider. Insurance coverage, or at least partial coverage, of elective egg freezing may be an option. However, many plans only cover this procedure in the case of pre-mature menopause, cancer treatment and the like. Some plans do not cover it even in those circumstances. You must be prepared to pay for the basic costs of preparation, retrieval, and storage of the eggs until you feel ready to proceed to fertilization.
To summarize, remember that egg freezing is an option worth considering for the preservation of your fertility if you don’t feel ready to have a child in your 20’s or 30’s. But you need to be prepared that it is not a guarantee of a healthy pregnancy later, nor is every woman a suitable candidate for freezing. It’s typically a better option for women younger than 38 years old.