Insuring Motherhood: Is Egg Freezing Right For You?
November 13, 2019 | Yesmom
Whether they are busy building their careers, waiting for Mr. Right or just not feeling ready to be a parent due to personal reasons, an increasing number of women are choosing to freeze their eggs to delay having a child. With the wonders of advancing technology, egg freezing allows women to pause their biological clock at their most fertile years of life.
By late 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) declared that oocyte preservation or egg freezing is no longer considered an experimental procedure. As medical technology keeps advancing, the process of egg freezing has evolved more and its success rates are on the rise.
What Is Egg Freezing?
At puberty, a woman usually has an average of 300,000 to 400,000 eggs remaining in her ovaries. This figure decreases with age and by the time she crosses 35, the quality and quantity of her eggs diminish rapidly. A woman’s most fertile years are in her 20s and early 30s. Oocyte cryopreservation or egg freezing is a process where a woman’s eggs are frozen in egg fertility centers for future use after being removed from her ovaries.
To learn more about the basics of egg freezing and how it is done, read our Egg Freezing 101 Guide. If you already know about egg freezing, but is wondering if egg freezing is right for you, then read on to know what all points you must take into consideration before deciding to proceed with freezing your eggs.
Why Freeze Your Eggs?
If you do not feel ready to be a mom now, but wish to keep your options open for later, then egg freezing is an alternative to consider seriously. Embryo cryopreservation is another option, but such fertilized egg freezing requires sperm.
Even if you have met Mr. Right, with whom, you want to have a child with, egg freezing is a simpler process as sperms are not required and the eggs are not fertilized before freezing. Both options, though, require you to take fertility drugs to encourage ovulation and the production of multiple eggs.
Suitable Candidates for Egg Freezing
Egg freezing should be given serious consideration if:
- You have a medical condition that can affect your fertility: If you have sickle cell anemia or autoimmune diseases such as lupus, it may affect your fertility.
- You have to undergo a medical treatment that may negatively impact your fertility: Medical treatments like radiation or chemotherapy for diseases such as cancer can affect your ability to get pregnant. Choosing to freeze your healthy eggs before commencing treatment may help you have biological children later.
- You have premature ovarian failure: If detected early enough, you can still save your healthy eggs for later use.
- Religious or ethical reasons: Some people, undergoing IVF, are not comfortable with embryo freezing due to religious or ethical reasons and may prefer egg freezing.
- You are yet to find the right person to begin a family with: Most of us have a clear idea of the kind of person we want to share our life with and to begin our family. Rather than compromise on this matter, you want to wait till you have found the right person.
- Not yet ready to be a mother – In our efforts to finish our education, establish a career, or other pursuits, many of us are not ready to commit to the serious responsibility of being a mom, even if we have the right partner.
- For whatever personal reasons, you simply wish to preserve your healthy young eggs for future use.
Maybe you want to travel and see the world first or you may already have a child and want to wait a while before having the next one. If starting your family by having young ones, is something you prefer to pursue later in life, then your frozen eggs can be used to conceive a child using sperm from your partner or a donor. Your frozen eggs can also be implanted in the uterus of another woman if for some reason you are not able to carry a baby to full term.
Such gestational carriers have helped many women achieve their dream of having babies of their own and donor frozen eggs have enabled many infertile women to become pregnant. You can consider donating extra frozen eggs after you have conceived your baby, to allow other women to realize their dreams of having a family with children.
Getting Ready for Egg Freezing
If you have decided to go ahead with freezing your eggs, the first step is to find the right clinic for you, with reputed and reliable reproductive endocrinologists or talk to a fertility specialist. Read our Doctor’s Guide on Egg Freezing to help you choose the right clinic for your needs.
The success rate of clinics depends on various factors, like the age of the women they treat and the age at which the eggs were frozen. It is important to take into consideration the cost of the procedures, as well as, the storage fees for the safekeeping of the frozen eggs. Before starting on the egg freezing procedures, the doctors will likely request you to do tests, such as:
Infectious disease screening: You will first need to be screened to confirm that you carry no infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Ovarian reserve testing: The concentration of follicle-stimulating hormone and estradiol in your blood has to be tested on the third day of your menstrual cycle to determine the quantity and quality of your eggs. These results help to determine how your ovaries react to fertility drugs. Ultrasounds of the ovaries are needed for the doctors to form a complete picture of your ovarian functions.
The Right Age for Freezing Your Eggs
The age at which you freeze your eggs is very important. You need young, healthy eggs to increase your chances of conceiving a baby. But how young should you be? Your twenties are the best time to freeze your eggs. The live birth rates from frozen eggs are highest among women who undertook the procedure before they hit 30. But women in their twenties usually think they have plenty of time and most often they do not get proactive about such choices.
According to research, the average age at which women freeze their eggs is 37. Ideally, they should preserve their eggs before the age of 35 for the best quality eggs. The quality of eggs is known to deteriorate rapidly after the age of 38. Whether you are 30 or 40, you will first be asked to undergo medical testing to assess your ovarian reserve before starting on the egg retrieval and freezing procedures.
Obviously freezing your eggs in your early twenties is the best. But considering the effort and cost involved and the possibility that you may conceive naturally, later on, does not make this a wise choice unless you are diagnosed with an illness or require a treatment that threatens your fertility. Though theoretically, the eggs can be frozen indefinitely, in some countries, like the UK, eggs can only be stored for 10 years. The longer you store it, the costlier it gets, regarding storage costs.
The oldest frozen egg successfully used for pregnancy is 14 years old. If you freeze an egg at the age of 20 and choose to have a child at 40 or 45, we are talking about storing the egg for 20 to 25 years. The chances that you may conceive naturally, any time in your twenties or early thirties are also high and you may never need to use your frozen eggs. Freezing your eggs at 32 or 34 gives you the option of using your healthy eggs in your early 40s.
It is only towards the end of their twenties or in their thirties that women usually get a clearer idea of where they are heading with regard to their career or relationships. Freezing your eggs at this stage is a smart choice to insure your motherhood and you are more likely to use these eggs after storing them for a limited period of time.
How Egg Freezing Works: A Quick Summary
Egg freezing is considered a low-risk procedure that takes only a few weeks to complete. You will have to take hormone injections to encourage ovulation and when multiple eggs are ready for harvesting, they are retrieved by your doctor using a simple and quick, in-office procedure. The collected eggs are then frozen until you need them again.
The eggs are thawed and fertilized to create embryos using IVF (In-vitro fertilization). If fertilization is successful, then the embryo is transplanted in your uterus where it grows into a baby, nourished by your body. Your embryo can also be transplanted into another woman, a gestational carrier if needed.
Freezing Your Eggs: An Important Factor You Must Know
But one vital point that needs to be mentioned is that freezing your eggs is not a guarantee of motherhood. It helps increase your chances of conceiving a healthy baby at an older age when it is biologically more difficult to do so. But there is no 100% guarantee that it will work.
There are a few more important things to keep in mind if you decide to proceed with freezing your eggs, especially regarding the risks involved and to prepare yourself emotionally for this journey. Our article ‘Freezing Your Eggs: 5 Important Things You Need to Keep in Mind’ explains these points in detail.
Egg freezing has many pros and cons. Consider them carefully to see if this is the right choice for you. It is not the only fertility option you may have and egg freezing may not be suitable for all. Do your research and learn all you can about it before taking the next step.
Your gynecologist may be able to guide you on this matter and clear some of your doubts before you head to a fertility clinic of your choice. You can then discuss your treatment choice with a reputed reproductive endocrinologist and perform the necessary screenings to confirm you are a viable candidate for egg freezing.
Egg freezing is like an insurance policy. You may never need to use it. But it provides a backup in case you need one. In that context, Egg freezing offers you an option to insure your motherhood. So go ahead and make an informed choice. Get proactive in deciding at what stage in your life you want to have your baby!