If you want to put off having a family and are considering freezing your eggs, you aren’t alone. I have treated hundreds of women who know they want to be a mother someday — when the time is right. The opportunity to shatter the biological clock wasn’t a possibility for women years ago, but today women can rest a little easier. Freezing eggs is no longer a hush-hush topic; Hollywood has made this a part of regular conversation. Zooey Deschanel feared for her ticking biological clock in an episode of New Girl, while Maria Menounos, Sofia Vergara, and Kim Kardashian have all reportedly put their fertility on ice.
If you’re thinking about freezing your eggs, consider this information first.
1. You’re already ahead of the game.
If you're thinking about fertility preservation and whether it's right for you, you are already two steps ahead. Being aware of a potential problem in life can help you anticipate solutions. Knowledge is power, and understanding your body and fertility potential is critical in making educated choices for your future.
2. This will require some work.
The process of freezing your eggs takes time, money, and effort. This process typically yields the best results for healthy women under 40 who have a good supply of healthy eggs. The ideal time to freeze your eggs is in your early 30s, or even your late 20s. The number of eggs a woman has is determined at birth and declines with age.
The egg freezing process typically takes roughly two months. The first month is spent undergoing two blood tests and an ultrasound to see if you meet the criteria to freeze eggs.
The two blood tests include:
- The Follicle Stimulating Hormone Test: FSH helps control the menstrual cycle and egg production by the ovaries; measuring FSH provides valuable insight for fertility potential and egg supply.
- The Anti-Mullerian Hormone Test: AMH is a substance produced in the ovaries; measuring AMH gives an estimate of egg supply.
The third test is the Antral Follicle Count Test, which is done via vaginal ultrasound to count follicles. A follicle is a small, fluid-filled sac that contains an immature egg and by counting follicles, fertility potential and ovarian reserve can be further assessed.
During the second month, you'll spend two weeks taking injectable medication to stimulate egg production, after which you will undergo an egg retrieval. While you are on medication, your eggs will be monitored via ultrasound and blood tests.
During the egg retrieval, you will be placed under light sedation and may feel cramping and bloating afterwards, similar to your period. It’s best to take a day off after the procedure to recover. The goal is to freeze around 15 eggs, but anywhere from 10 to 20 eggs is considered very successful.
3. You’re going to need to get over your fear of needles.
In order to stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs, you'll need to take medication in the form of daily shots for two weeks. The needle is small (similar to the one children use for insulin) and usually given in the stomach or leg. A nurse will typically guide you through this process, but you'll be responsible for administering shots during these two weeks — unless you have a nurturing roommate or friend who can support you during this time.
4. There’s no guarantee.
Freezing eggs does not guarantee a baby, but it does offer a reliable insurance plan. Similar to your chances of getting pregnant when trying for one to two months, this provides a swing at the bat. Eggs must survive the thaw, fertilize, implant in the uterus, and hopefully result in a baby. Along the way, any of these steps may not happen. Until eggs are used for treatment, physicians cannot know the outcome.
During an egg thaw, eggs are removed from cryopreservation and rapidly thawed using warming solutions. Eggs survive the thaw at a rate of approximately 80 to 90%, then fertilize and create an embryo approximately 70% of the time.
Fertilized eggs must develop into an embryo, which is then transferred to the uterus after three or five days. The chance of a frozen egg embryo resulting in a pregnancy can be similar to that of a fresh egg, particularly for women younger than 36 years old.
5. It’s not cheap.
The cost of medication and treatment for one cycle is roughly $10,000 to 12,000, while storing eggs at a fertility center will cost an additional $500 to $800 per year. Sometimes more than one egg retrieval may be necessary to collect the ideal number of 10 to 20 eggs.
6. You can make an informed choice before beginning this process.
As mentioned above, the Anti-Mullerian Hormone test is a convenient and inexpensive blood test that can tell us how many eggs you may have left — a low, average, or high number. Through the test, it can be determined who may lose their fertility more quickly, as well as provide valuable insight around ovarian reserve.
For example, a normal AMH score falls in a range of 1-3. A 30-year-old woman who has an AMH of 2 and therefore has an average number of eggs left may be a better candidate compared to a 39 year-old with an AMH of 4 who appears to have a lot of eggs left. The older woman may have more quantity but less quality since age is not on her side; therefore the ability of the eggs to make a healthy pregnancy is less likely.
7. You will feel lighter and think more clearly.
That 800-pound gorilla that's been sitting on your shoulders? She's gone. That ticking biological clock? It's not so loud. We've seen many women walk away feeling freer, lighter and rejuvenated. Don't be surprised by the feeling of both strength and sadness about having to consider this. It's normal - this decision is fraught with emotion. Many women head back into the dating world empowered with a new perspective and positive attitude. And believe it or not, sometimes the right person arrives soon thereafter.
8. At 24, it may be best to put cash towards college loans.
While the best time to freeze eggs is during your late 20s or early 30s, it's important to weigh timing with life and financial circumstances. If you are beginning your career and in your early to mid-20s, you may need more time. Conversely, if you're in your 20s and certain you want to delay pregnancy, younger eggs have more success in treatment. For some women, anxious parents help with covering the cost of "grandparent insurance." Fertility begins to steadily decline at 35 years of age, so depending on your age you may want to consider a decision differently.
9. If it’s a possibility, freeze embryos instead.
If you already have a partner but aren’t ready for children, freezing embryos rather than eggs will boost your odds of success in the future. Eggs are delicate, and not all will survive the thawing process. By mixing your partner’s sperm with your eggs, then freezing the resulting embryos, you have eliminated one stage of the process.
3 Questions to Ask Your Doctor:
1. What freezing technique is used in the lab?
Fast freeze vitrification of eggs seems to provide better results than slow freeze cryopreservation.
2. How many egg freezing procedures have they done this year?
Experience in this area has proven to be very important as eggs can easily be damaged during the freezing process. Eggs are the largest cell in the body and easily form ice crystals, decreasing their ability to survive an egg thaw. Your doctor should have experience in elective fertility preservation as well as egg freezing for cancer patients and egg donors.
3. Has the clinic thawed any eggs that have resulted in a pregnancy and baby?
Egg thawing is an art which requires expertise and skill — practice makes perfect. But even in the most experienced of hands, frozen eggs do not equal a baby but a chance. Remember, egg freezing for fertility preservation is still a relatively new procedure and most women who have frozen their eggs have not yet returned for treatment. The center should have at least 5 to 10 egg thaws under their belt and with those, some that have resulted in pregnancy.