Modern technology has offered up so much in the women’s health field. The very fact that women can today freeze their eggs, and potentially extend fertility, is nothing short of incredible. But if you’ve ever looked into freezing your eggs, you know that all that information can be overwhelming.
So, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why women might undergo egg freezing. There are many things to consider before freezing eggs.
What Does Egg-Freezing Entail?
The process to freeze your eggs is like starting an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. In fact, the first step of IVF and egg-freezing is exactly the same:
The ovaries are stimulated with artificial hormones, so they release a number of eggs at once. These eggs are then retrieved using a needle placed into the vagina.
Instead of then combining an egg with a sperm to create an embryo, the eggs are collected and then taken to a lab. There, the eggs are chilled to subzero temperatures – a process known as cryopreservation.1
Now, it takes about three weeks for the entire process of egg-freezing. If you are freezing your eggs, your doctor will likely prescribe 1-2 weeks of birth control pills. This stops your body’s production of natural hormones.
You’ll also undergo about 10 days of injections. These will stimulate your ovaries into producing fully-formed eggs.
Why Women Might Choose to Freeze their Eggs
Egg-freezing provides a unique potential opportunity: the chance to become pregnant at a later date. Here are some of the reasons why women might choose to freeze their eggs:
- Certain medical treatments may affect fertility. Eggs can be harvested and frozen beforehand.
- Some women freeze their eggs because they haven’t yet found the right partner. These women want to “freeze” their biological clock.
- For some women, it’s just not the right time. They might choose to freeze their eggs for professional or financial reasons.
6 Important Considerations Before Freezing your Eggs
1. Freezing Your Eggs is Not a Guarantee
Although egg-freezing is an incredible opportunity, it’s not an insurance policy. It comes with no guarantees for a successful pregnancy. But the good news is, advanced technology has upped egg-freezing success rates.2
Success rates from egg-freezing range from approximately 10-20%. This depends, in part, on a woman’s age at the time of freezing and implantation. One new study has developed a calculator that estimates a 35-year-old with 10 viable eggs has a 69% chance of at least one live birth, while at 40 years old, that decreases to around 30%.3
As you can see, the odds of conceiving after freezing eggs vary greatly – after all, every woman’s body is different. The important thing is to always consult your doctor when it comes to your medical needs – he or she will know what’s best for your personal pregnancy journey.
2. Freezing Your Eggs is Expensive
Trying to delay your biological clock comes at a hefty financial cost. Egg-freezing is expensive, putting the procedure out of reach for some women. On average, it can cost around $10,000 to harvest the eggs from the ovaries… and that’s just the beginning.
You will then need to add the cost of yearly storage – around $500 a year. Then, each time one of those frozen eggs is thawed, fertilized, and implanted back into the uterus as an embryo, it will cost around $5,000.4
It may take several attempts if an embryo does not result in a successful pregnancy. As you can see, the overall cost adds up dramatically.
3. Freezing Your Eggs Takes Commitment
Aside from the high price point, the process of freezing your eggs is not quick or easy. Egg-freezing may cause side effects that affect some women’s health. Some potential egg-freezing side effects may include:
- Mood swings
- Hot or cold flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Sore, red, or bruised areas from many injections5
4. The Younger the Egg, the Healthier It Is
Some IVF clinics recommend women begin egg-freezing in their early- to mid-30s, up to around 38 years of age. This is because eggs are more likely to be healthier when you’re younger.6
As it turns out, the single biggest factor when it comes to successful fertilization is the age of eggs. So, even if you freeze your eggs at age 37, they are still considered better than a freshly-harvested number of eggs at 40. Just as when trying to conceive naturally – the older you are, the older your eggs are.7
Be sure to talk to an IVF specialist about your situation – he or she can advise you about the best time to consider egg-freezing.
5. Understanding the Difference Between Freezing Eggs or an Embryo
Why do some women choose to freeze embryos rather than eggs? Well, while the survival rates between freezing eggs and freezing embryos are similar, the practice of freezing embryos has been around a lot longer.
It took egg-freezing some time to catch up. Historically, there was much trial and error in learning to freeze eggs without damaging them.8
The choice between egg-freezing and embryo-freezing may come down to where you are in life. If you choose to freeze embryos, you will need a partner or be open to donor sperm. Embryo-freezing and storage may also be more expensive.
It’s also important to consider the future of any unused embryos. Often, this decision tends to present couples with an ethical dilemma. A choice may be necessary about whether the embryos should be discarded or donated.9
6. All Fertility Centers Are Not Created Equal
It’s important to do your research on clinics for several reasons. Some fertility centers have vastly better success rates than others. Some cost a lot more (though this does not guarantee expertise); others may offer payment plans.
Find a clinic with a lot of experience – and one that provides you with its success rates. It’s even better if those success rates are broken down by age. Remember, freezing eggs safely and correctly is a delicate process – so do your research. Talk to other women in your area, and be sure to ask the clinic as many questions about success rates as you can.
A Not-So-Common Practice
While it’s not completely clear how many babies have been born from frozen eggs, it’s not that many.
Freezing Your Eggs: Don’t Delay Once You’ve Made a Decision
If you decide to go ahead and freeze your eggs, don’t wait. Every year that passes can make a big difference to your biological clock.
Scientific advancements have left many women with high expectations for the process of egg-freezing. The truth is, when it comes to women’s health, a successful pregnancy is never guaranteed. But you can definitely give yourself the best shot by thinking ahead about your future now.
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