Egg freezing is a big decision for a woman. Before deciding to freeze her eggs, a woman must consider her age, life plans, as well as the cost.
The average baby girl is born with up to 2 million eggs. Most of those will die off naturally (much like skin and hair cells), and by puberty, there are typically about half a million healthy eggs left. As a woman continues to age through her 20s and into her 30s, eggs die off more rapidly. The quality of the remaining eggs also declines. For this reason, it is, in part, biologically easier for a woman to become pregnant before her 30s.
Why Would I Consider Freezing My Eggs?
As you and your eggs age, your life is also unfolding. It is 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 about with your reproductive specialist.
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
The egg freezing process 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 into the uterus. If the embryo implants, then the woman will become pregnant.
At What Age Should You Freeze Your Eggs?
Egg freezing has proven to be most successful when the eggs are extracted before the woman turns 34 years old.1 So, if you are in your 30s and thinking about starting a family, you should start planning and begin considering your options.
There’s No Guarantee Egg Freezing Will Work.
It’s important to remember that even in younger women (i.e., under age 38), the chance that one frozen egg will yield a baby in the future is around 2-12%. As women get older and egg quality begins to decline, the pregnancy rate per frozen egg drops further.1 You must remember that freezing your eggs doesn’t guarantee a baby.2
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, it’s vital that you seek the counsel and treatment of a trusted reproductive endocrinologist 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 costs of egg freezing are another factor to be considered. In some cases, insurance may cover at least a portion of the cost of elective egg freezing. However, many plans only cover this procedure in the case of premature menopause, cancer treatment and similar extenuating circumstances. Before pursuing egg freezing, connect with your insurance provider so that you can get a clear understanding of what aspects of the process may be covered. In most cases, you should be prepared to pay for the basic costs of preparation, retrieval, and storage of the eggs until you feel ready to proceed to fertilization.
So… is it worth it?
The choice is up to you. Egg freezing gives you the option to put family building on hold, but does not guarantee a baby. The decision requires careful consideration, and some homework. Work with your physician and/or reproductive endocrinologist to assess whether egg freezing is right for you and your individual needs.
- Mesen, Tolga B. et al. Optimal timing for elective egg freezing. Fertility and Sterility, Volume 103, Issue 6, 1551 – 1556.e4. June, 2015. Accessed June 13, 2017. Available at: http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(15)00170-3/abstract.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). “Can I Freeze My Eggs to Use Later if I’m Not Sick?” Updated 2014. Accessed June 13, 2017. Available at: http://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/can-i-freeze-my-eggs-to-use-later-if-im-not-sick/