As a woman grows older, her fertility naturally declines. Although fertility usually isn’t an issue for a woman in her 20s or early 30s, not all women want to have a child at this age.
If you don’t want to have a child right away but you want to have your own child at some point in the future, preserving your eggs by freezing them is a great option. Having access to your frozen eggs will improve your odds of getting pregnant in the future when your fertility naturally declines.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a preservation process where a woman’s eggs are extracted, frozen, and stored for future use. The eggs can be thawed at a later date and used in assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), to help her become pregnant.
Egg freezing is commonly used by women who want to preserve their eggs before their fertility declines over time, so they are still able to give birth to their own child at some point in the future.
Egg freezing is also used in the egg donation process. Whenever a woman donates eggs, those eggs are often frozen until a suitable recipient is found. This way, the donor doesn’t have to wait for a match to be found to donate.
Reasons why some women consider egg freezing
Many women decide to freeze their eggs while they are young and healthy so that they have a better chance of getting pregnant at some point in the future. The following are a few reasons why some women may consider freezing their eggs:
Personal Or Social Reasons
Some women may want to freeze their eggs so they are able to delay pregnancy for personal or social reasons. For example, they may want to focus on their career or travel the world before starting a family. Other women may not have found the right partner yet, or may not be in a stable financial situation where they can afford to have and raise children.
Egg freezing can provide security for women who want to have their own biological children at some point in the future, just not now. As fertility decreases with age, a woman may want to freeze her eggs while she is young and fertile to safeguard her future. Egg freezing helps give her the option to have children later in life when her fertility may have naturally decreased.
Medical Conditions Affecting Fertility
Some women have medical conditions that may affect their fertility in the near future, such as premature ovarian failure. Women in this position may choose to freeze their eggs before these conditions affect their fertility.
Moreover, for women with cancer who are set to undergo chemotherapy, pregnancy is usually not an option. Chemotherapy can also affect future fertility, so some women choose to freeze their eggs before starting treatment so that they can still have their own children in the future.
Ovarian Damage Due To Surgery
Some women who are scheduled to undergo a surgery that could damage their ovaries, such as a hysterectomy, may consider freezing their eggs before the surgery. This way, they still have the option to have children in the future if the surgery damages their ovaries and affects their fertility.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that can cause irregular periods, excess hair growth, and cysts on the ovaries. Not to mention, it can also make it difficult to get pregnant. As PCOS can affect fertility, women with PCOS who want to have a child in the future may consider freezing their eggs.
Chromosomal abnormalities, such as Turner syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 2500 girls and occurs when one of the two X chromosomes normally found in females is partially or completely missing can affect one’s ability to have children. Egg freezing offers the Turner syndrome community the option to have a biological child.
Menopause is the natural decline in reproductive hormones in the body, which leads to infertility. Early menopause is a term that describes when a woman goes through menopause before the age of 40.
Some women with a family history of early menopause might consider freezing their eggs to ensure they can still have a child in the future. This is possible through assistive technologies, such as in IVF, even for women who have gone through menopause.
The IVF process involves the retrieval of a mature egg that’s then fertilized in a lab. There are many reasons why a woman might undergo IVF. For example, maybe she doesn’t have a partner and is using a sperm donor, in which case she would use her own eggs. Women undergoing IVF may consider freezing their eggs as a backup in case the IVF doesn’t work.
The egg freezing process
The process of freezing your eggs is very thorough, although it’s not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. There are numerous steps that you’ll have to go through, which are put in place to ensure not only the health of the eggs that you freeze, but also your own physical and emotional wellbeing.
With that in mind, the following are the steps that you’ll have to go through in order to freeze your eggs.
Blood Test Screenings
Once you’ve undergone a pre-screening process and have consulted with a doctor, the next step in the egg freezing process is to undergo a series of blood tests. These blood tests are important in order to check for any potential medical conditions that could affect the health of your eggs and success of the egg freezing procedure.
You’ll also be screened for infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, as well as for any genetic disorders.
Additionally, you’ll also have your ovarian reserve tested. This blood test measures your blood hormone levels, which can indicate the number of eggs that are remaining in your ovaries. The results will give your doctor an idea of whether your number of eggs is typical for your age and can also allow your doctor to rule out any potential hormonal imbalances.
After the initial blood tests, you’ll begin the process of ovarian stimulation. This involves taking hormone medication, usually in the form of injections, for around two weeks. The medication encourages the ovaries to stimulate multiple eggs during each menstrual cycle.
You’ll also be required to have regular ultrasounds and blood tests during this time so that your doctor can monitor your progress and make sure that the medication is working as it should.
Once the eggs have matured, you’ll undergo a procedure called egg retrieval. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is performed under anesthesia. During the egg retrieval, a needle is inserted into the ovaries in order to collect the relevant eggs. As you’ll be sedated, you won’t feel anything during this process.
The egg retrieval usually takes around 30 minutes to an hour, and you’ll be able to go home the same day. It’s normal to experience some cramping and bloating after the procedure, but this should subside within a few days.
Once the eggs have been retrieved, they’ll be frozen using a process called vitrification. This is a rapid freezing process that helps to prevent the formation of ice crystals (which can damage the eggs). The eggs will be stored in a tank of liquid nitrogen and can be kept frozen for many years. When you’re ready to use your frozen eggs, they’ll be thawed and fertilized using IVF.
How much does egg freezing cost?
There are several costs associated with the egg freezing process. The costs will vary from one person to another based on the type of insurance coverage you have and the fertility center you’re using.
If you’re choosing to freeze your eggs because of a cancer diagnosis or some other medical condition that can affect your fertility, you may be able to receive more financial coverage.
For example, it can cost anywhere between $6,000 and $10,000 for each round of egg freezing, which includes the medication, ultrasound, bloodwork, and egg retrieval procedure. Storing your frozen eggs can cost an additional $600 per year, which means the total will depend on how long you decide to store your eggs for.
Finally, it will typically cost around $18,000 to thaw your frozen eggs and use them in an IVF cycle. When all is said and done, the entire egg freezing, storage, dethawing, and IVF process can be expensive.
However, the cost is well worth it for many women as it gives them a real chance to build a family when they are ready to. If the costs are prohibitive (especially if your insurance doesn’t provide adequate coverage), be sure to request information about any financing programs that are available.
Most fertility centers can help provide you with a financial solution through a partner financial institution.
Are there any risks from the procedure?
The egg freezing process is considered to be a low-risk procedure. However, as with any medical procedure, there are some risks that you should be aware of. These risks include:
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
One of the risks associated with ovarian stimulation is a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This occurs when the ovaries become too large and too many eggs are stimulated. Symptoms of OHSS include mild abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
Severe symptoms may include more severe pain and nausea as well as shortness of breath, rapid weight gain, and blood clots, and may require hospitalization.
Fortunately, OHSS is a rare complication and only occurs in around 1% of women who undergo ovarian stimulation. Even if you do develop OHSS, symptoms tend to be milde. Additionally, most women who develop OHSS go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Complications From The Egg Retrieval Procedure
Another risk associated with the egg freezing process is complications from egg retrieval. Egg retrieval is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, which means that there are very few risks involved.
However, as with any surgery, there is a small risk of infection. If the procedure is not done correctly, it can also result in injuries to the ovaries, bladder, uterus, and bowel. You may experience some cramping and bloating after the procedure, which is normal. Any side effects are typically mild and will resolve on their own within a few days.
Risks Of Miscarriage In Older Women
There is also a slightly higher risk of miscarriage for frozen eggs from older women. This is because your eggs are more likely to have chromosomal abnormalities the older you get. A significant number of miscarriages are linked to chromosomal abnormalities; in fact, 50 percent of first trimester miscarriages are linked to chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.
Finally, it’s important to be aware that the egg freezing process can be emotionally stressful. This is especially true if you are undergoing treatment for a medical condition that could affect your fertility. It’s important to have a support system in place during this time to help you through the process.
Success rate of egg preservation
It is difficult to determine a specific success rate of egg preservation, as there are so many factors that can affect the outcome. After all, not every egg will result in an embryo, not every embryo will result in a pregnancy, and not every pregnancy will result in a baby. As such, there is no guarantee that freezing your eggs will result in a future pregnancy or baby.
If you look at the overall success rate of a single frozen egg, it’s somewhat low. However, a single round of IVF involves several eggs, which helps boost the overall success rate.
Additionally, the success rate of eggs resulting in pregnancies also depends on the age of the woman at the time of the egg retrieval. Odds are that if you freeze your eggs at the age of 22, they’ll be more likely to result in a future pregnancy than if you freeze your eggs at the age of 35.
Keeping this in mind, the following are a few statistics on the egg freezing success rate:
- Around 90 to 97%of eggs retrieved that are frozen and thawed survive
- The fertilization success rate of thawed eggs is between 71 and 79%
- The successful implantation rate is between 17 and 41%
- The successful pregnancy rate is between 4.5 and 12%
When To Freeze Your Eggs
As women age, fertility naturally declines. This is why it’s generally recommended that you freeze your eggs before the age of 35. Some women may choose to freeze their eggs much earlier if they have a family history of early menopause or if they are undergoing treatment for a medical condition that could affect their fertility.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) suggests that the best time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s or early 30s.
Is freezing your eggs a good idea?
Egg freezing can give you the ability to have a baby later on in life and may provide some peace of mind. However, it’s not a guarantee. However, if the thought of having your eggs frozen gives you some comfort about your future fertility, then it may be worth considering.
This is especially true if you think that your fertility may be affected (whether by age or a medical condition) by the time you’re ready to have a child.
Whatever your reasoning for freezing your eggs, it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly. You’ll want to have a thorough conversation with your support network and doctor about the risks and potential benefits before making a decision.
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