For decades, there has been a rise in the number of women having children in their 30s and 40s. Some driven by their careers or education and taking a back-seat approach to motherhood, others simply have not met the right partner, and in unforeseen cases, women battling cancer or medical issues choose to freeze their eggs in hopes of having children after recovery. Whatever the life circumstance might be for conceiving late in life, now more than ever, the advances in egg freezing can offer women all over the world a chance to slow their reproductive time clock and take control of their reproductive choices.
Most women can’t escape the message that it’s harder to get pregnant after age 35. And yet, it’s not a conversation patients are having with the doctors they talk to about their most intimate issues – their OBGYN – unless they bring up the topic first. OBGYN’s routinely ask patients during their annual exams about their sexual histories and need for contraception, but often missing from the list is, “Do you plan to have a family?” And furthermore an internal question: “Should I freeze my eggs?”
Now, egg freezing has been removed from the experimental labeling and has gained credibility as an option for fertility preservation. Many OBGYN’s have learned that the success rates are increasing, and more and more are referring women to a respected fertility doctor who can offer this service.
Between the ages of 16 and 28, a woman’s egg quality is at its prime. At age 29, the quality begins to decline. A women’s age is an important factor when she chooses to freeze her eggs, as it can affect her outcome of having a successful pregnancy. This is why, fertility doctors all over the world stress that the time is now to take control of your reproduction and meet with a Fertility Doctor, or more professionally known as a Reproductive Endocrinologist to discuss your options. It’s best to freeze eggs before 40 years old as a woman’s fertility begins to decline. The average age seen is 37 years old. Prior to treatment, a Reproductive Endocrinologist can run hormone testing to understand better your current fertility and what treatment plan will work best for your preservation success.
Egg freezing offers the possibility of having a baby at a later time. Yes, that’s right! A possibility! Egg freezing is an opportunity to control a woman’s reproductive potential. With success rates rising, in 10 years egg freezing will be as common as the birth control pill and with decades of technological improvements, there has been a fast rise in live births from frozen eggs.
Most women can’t escape the message that it’s harder to get pregnant after age 35. And yet, it’s not a conversation patients are having with the doctors they talk to about their most intimate issues – their OBGYN – unless they bring up the topic first.
Oocyte Cryopreservation, commonly known as egg freezing, is accomplished through an egg retrieval process, which involves taking hormone medications for roughly ten days to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once the eggs have reached maturity, they are extracted vaginally during a minor outpatient surgical procedure. On average about 10-15 eggs are extracted and immediately dehydrated and frozen through a process called vitrification. The eggs are then stored in tanks at -196 degrees Celsius. Recovery time is minimal, and patients are back to normal shortly after.
Egg freezing can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, and cryo-preservation is anywhere from $700-$1000 per year. There are companies like Apple and Facebook that offer egg freezing to their female employees that desire this opportunity to preserve their fertility. There are hopes that insurance companies will consider this a valid medical procedure and offer coverage to their policyholders, but there has yet to be any discussion about it.
It is common for patients to wait a number of years before taking advantage of their preserved eggs. It is recommended no more than ten years to ensure a successful creation of embryos, but there have been cases where frozen eggs past ten years have resulted in the successful creation of embryos and implantation, creating beautiful, healthy babies.
When a woman is ready to create embryo’s and start a family, she would come back to the clinic for a follow-up appointment and discuss her treatment plan. Depending on her needs, her eggs could be thawed and fertilized with her partner’s sperm or donor sperm. Thereafter embryos are made, testing for any chromosome abnormalities are recommended, and the healthiest embryo is transferred to either herself or if needed, by a gestational carrier – better known as a Surrogate. Thereafter, any surviving embryos can then be cryo-preserved, donated to another recipient or science, or discarded if the intended parents choose to do so. Couples are urged to freeze their remaining embryos until after their children are born.
It is important to choose a clinic and Fertility Doctor that is right for you. Research their success rates at www.SART.org . SART is an organization dedicated to Assisted Reproductive Technologies and its practices. On their website, you can research the success rate of any fertility clinic in the United States. In addition to researching SART, also research the clinic; have a consultation with the Fertility Specialist to review your medical history, plans for treatment and future needs. At your consultation, ask to tour the clinic, and meet the staff. Feeling comfortable and confident with the clinic of your choice is beneficial during your treatment offering less stress and giving you peace of mind.
Over the years fertility treatment has broadened its practice and is on the cutting edge of science and technology offering many forms of treatment and options for people all over the world to have the family they have always dreamed of in the time that is right for them. From Egg and embryo freezing to gestational carriers to genetic testing and gender selection for family balancing, the list continues, but it all starts with the eggs and preserving before its too late.
We hope this will help you to figure out if you should freeze your eggs.
Practicing in California since 1990, Dr. Jane Frederick is an internationally noted specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. She is the medical director of HRC Fertility in Orange County, where she developed a diverse clinical practice in reproductive surgery, IVF and the genetic screening of embryos.