Two recent headlines gave me pause: Women Are Having Kids Later, and That’s Good for Everyone and How Millennial Women And Their Eggs Can Have It All [by Egg Freezing]. So steeped am I in the world of infertility and adoption that I literally gasped. However, the actual stats released by the Centers for Disease Control on US pregnancy rates are more nuances than the headlines would indicate.
It’s hard to argue against the steep decline in teen pregnancies, since it’s the rare, very rare, teen that is ready for parenthood.
With what we know now about the decline of fertility as we age, it’s also hard to argue in favor of putting off child bearing until your late 30s and 40s, and, to my mind, journalistic headlines that seems to do this are irresponsible. If you look carefully at the CDC pregnancy statistics, you’ll see that birth rates in the 25-29 age range remained about the same from 2000 to 2008, with the biggest change being the drop in births in the 20-24 age range and an increase in births in women in their 30s.
It’s ironic that our peak age for fertility coincides with our peak age for making our mark in our careers, and coincides with a time when the average age for marriage is increasing. I get very nervous, however, when egg freezing is touted as the solution to this dilemma. It is true that the science of egg freezing has come a long way in recent years. (Or more accurately the science of egg thawing, since freezing is the relatively easy part, while maintaining viability after the thaw is tricky.) However, the science is so new that we don’t know if it will live up to its promise for fertility preservation. For example, we have some good research on the viability of eggs frozen from egg donors in their early 20s, but do we know if we’ll be able to duplicate this level of success in eggs frozen from a woman in her early 30s? I’m not against egg freezing, if you can afford it and if you realize that it is not a guarantee.
I am finished with growing my family, but as my kids get older, I am now viewing it from their stand point, especially my daughters. Honestly, I don’t know what is best, and I wish it would be easier for them.
Image credit: US Department of Health & Human Services
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Hi from ICLW…I wish more people thought about things like this…most people think that it is easy and you can have a baby anytime you are ready but that is not always the case…
How very very true!
My understanding when I looked into it was that freezing eggs was often not successful (in ultimately resulting in a pregnancy).
There are a few clinics that are beginning to report good success rate with frozen eggs, but these are donor eggs mostly from women in their early 20s.
I recently read that egg freezing may become more popular as college graduation present from parents to give their daughters more flexibility in pursuing their career without pressure to marry and start a family too early. But, I also think this technology has a way to go before it is consistently successful enough to achieve that goal.
I think part of the challenge is that oftentimes by the time a woman is considering egg freezing, she is already past her peak fertility years.
Sue, I think you are exactly right. Most women in their mid 20s are not at the place of thinking that they may not be able to or want to start a family during their peak fertility years, or are not at the place of thinking that they won’t meet and marry the man of their dreams during their peak fertility years. And egg freezing is a fairly invasive process, what with all the drugs and the anesthesia for retrieval. The desire to freeze may not happen until their 30s, when egg quality is already beginning to diminish. A catch 22 for sure.
Did you see that article in the Washington Post a year or so ago about a couple who wasn’t ready for kids so they froze embyros for later use. It was not really well received (at least from the comments I read).
Yes Jennifer, here’s the link. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/02/AR2010070204597.html?sid=ST2010070204778. Keep in mind that the science around embryo freezing is more advanced and further along than for egg freezing.
I looked into egg freezing and found its not nearly as viable an option as you would think. Plus its expensive!
Jennifer, in what way not viable?