It’s not uncommon for women to feel uncertain about whether a baby will change their lives in a good way and need a little more time. Still, when these women are ready for pregnancy, their eggs may not be.
Today women have options. In recent years, more women and couples are deferring pregnancy by pursuing oocyte cryopreservation, more commonly known as egg freezing.
Egg freezing has been around for more than 20 years, however it was used primarily for patients hoping to preserve their fertility prior to cancer treatments that damaged fertility. Back then, success with eggs using the slow freeze method was below 20 percent.
Now, with vitrification (flash freezing) success nationally is around 57 percent. Because of these technological advancements, three years ago the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lifted the “experimental” label for egg freezing, giving the green light to an increasingly successful process.
And women, particularly younger women, are embracing this fertility technology. That is because of the biological fact that if a woman decides 10 or 15 years later she’s ready to embark on the journey of motherhood, she may not be able to do so due the negative impact of aging on fertility. Age reduces the quality and quantity of a woman’s viable eggs. By freezing a woman’s eggs when she’s young (and her eggs are healthy and fertile), she can essentially freeze time.
Freeze sooner rather than later
Because a woman’s fertility peaks in her mid-20s and begins to decline after age 31 or 32, the earlier a woman freezes her eggs, the better her likelihood of a successful pregnancy later on. When ready, the eggs can be thawed, fertilized and then transferred to a woman’s uterus as embryos.
Certain large employers, such as Facebook and Apple, have recently incorporated egg freezing into the benefits packages they offer to female employees. And every year, there are more babies born with the help of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the process of retrieving a woman’s eggs, which are then frozen and later fertilized, forming an embryo that is implanted in her womb for pregnancy.
Even with this great option for women to preserve their fertility, it’s still most important for them to remember in contemplating pregnancy that when, how and with whom are entirely up to them.
By freezing her eggs, a woman can increase her window for making the decision and enhance her likelihood of success if she decides to pursue pregnancy later on.
Egg freezing Qs and As
I recommend that women ask themselves the following questions, keeping in mind that some will require input and insight from their physician(s) and/or their partner.
Am I fertile enough that I could get pregnant on my own now?
Will I need IVF to get pregnant regardless?
Am I putting pregnancy on hold just because I have the resources to do so?
What am I communicating to my partner if I decide to freeze my eggs?
Do I have to reveal this decision to anyone?
How many eggs should I freeze to increase my odds for pregnancy with IVF?
These questions can help women become mentally and emotionally prepared for the possibility of pregnancy – whether now or later, through IVF from previously frozen eggs. Keep in mind that although with IVF there is not a guarantee of pregnancy, the likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy, for example, is higher with eggs from a 30-year-old woman than from a 42-year-old woman. Every woman’s situation is different. Some find reassurance in knowing the possible outcomes from egg freezing. These three outcomes a woman may experience are:
- Getting pregnant naturally, her frozen eggs, and the investment she made in storing them, would have been fertility “insurance.” Unfertilized eggs which are no longer needed can be donated or discarded.
- Having difficulty conceiving naturally – perhaps following a successful first pregnancy. She will then have the chance to get pregnant via IVF using her frozen eggs.
- Never being able to get pregnant, either naturally or through IVF with frozen eggs or freshly retrieved eggs.
It’s impossible to know what the future holds. A woman’s career, love life
and personal interests can change markedly from year to year. When a woman freezes her eggs, she may later thank herself for making pregnancy and motherhood possible.