For many women in their 30s, freezing viable eggs is a way to help ensure they can start a family later in life.
Freezing eggs has become an increasingly common and potentially life-changing choice for women hoping to be future mothers. For one, advancements in medicine have been encouraging — the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) determined in 2013 that mature oocyte cryopreservation was no longer considered experimental as an infertility treatment.
In addition, egg freezing is simply part of the changing face of motherhood in society today. Many future mothers want to wait to become parents until they are further along in their careers, more financially stable, or with the right partner. As more women recognize that healthy eggs are ultimately a limited resource, many choose this procedure to help ensure they will someday be able to have biological children.
Why Patients Choose Egg Freezing
Egg-freezing has proven to be a lifeline for patients with cancer or other conditions that can affect fertility. Radiation and chemotherapy are known to affect the reproductive organs, so freezing healthy eggs before these treatments increases the chances of a healthy pregnancy in the future. This is also true for women with endometriosis or autoimmune diseases, both of which can affect fertility as they progress. Whether the woman chooses to carry the fetus herself or use a surrogate, egg-freezing increases the chances that she will be able to have the family she wants.
However, egg freezing has also become an increasingly common elective procedure for younger women looking to slow their “biological clock.” Women who want to prioritize work or school, haven’t yet found the right partner, or wish to achieve financial stability before having children may choose to freeze their eggs to relieve the time pressure they feel to get pregnant. Though in vitro fertilization does carry some risk, freezing younger eggs increases the likelihood that future IVF procedures will succeed.
The Best Time to Freeze Your Eggs
Generally, the optimal window to freeze your eggs is in your early to mid-30s. Though younger eggs are usually healthier, women will see fewer benefits to freezing their eggs before this age.
A 2015 study in Fertility and Sterility suggests that women who had their eggs frozen before age 34 had the best chance of giving birth. However, the greatest gain was actually for those who had the procedure performed at age 37 — those patients saw the greatest difference in the probability of actually having a baby, compared with not freezing their eggs at all. For the best chances, sooner is better, but this study suggests that patients could still benefit well into their late 30s.
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
Egg freezing is a fairly straightforward procedure, with a timeline between two weeks and two months. The first step is a medical consultation that will help you decide whether egg freezing or embryo freezing is the best option for you. To decide this, your doctor will do a blood test to determine your hormone levels and perform an ultrasound screening of your ovarian reserve.
The next step is the ovarian stimulation process, during which you’ll need daily injections of a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Menopur, a medication containing FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH). These shots help your body produce multiple eggs.
During the retrieval process, you’ll be sedated and the eggs will be retrieved using a long needle. This takes just 15-30 minutes, and the eggs are frozen immediately. Once the eggs have been captured, the cycle can be repeated if you and your doctor decide it would be beneficial to retrieve more eggs.
A Realistic Picture of Egg Freezing
Women interested in egg freezing are understandably hopeful about the procedure. They usually have good reason to be, as egg freezing has helped many thousands of women start families later in life.
Regardless of the results, however, it’s best to have some realistic understanding of the procedure. The ASRM and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) state that the typical survival rate of a frozen oocyte after thawing is 90-97 percent, the fertilization rate is 71-79 percent, and the implantation rate is 17-41 percent.
In comparison, the specialized vitrification technique we use at the Advanced Fertility Center of Texas results in 99 percent oocyte survival, along with high pregnancy rates equivalent to those of typical IVF procedures.
In some cases, your insurance may cover all or part of the cost of egg freezing. It’s important to discuss the full scope of costs with your doctor’s office, including the retrieval cycle, storage costs, and IVF costs down the road.
Make an Appointment
If you’re curious about egg freezing as a way to ensure your future fertility, make an appointment with the Advanced Fertility Center of Texas. Our fertility consultants can answer any questions you may have about the procedure and help you determine if you’d be a suitable candidate.