Egg freezing has been around for quite some time now, but most people are still unclear about the service it provides. First off, it allows women to delay pregnancy and parenthood until they’re ready, without worrying that age may be a factor in preventing their ability to conceive. This is in part why women in the U.S. are waiting longer than ever to have babies, with the average age for first childbirth rising to a record high of 26.3 years. To put things in perspective, the average age of first childbirth back in 1970 was 21.4! Pretty incredible stuff, right?
But there’s much more to egg freezing than storing you’re unfertilized wonders under lock and key until you’re ready to hatch them, so to speak. To help you understand the process and determine whether it’s right for you and your family, here’s your complete guide to egg freezing.
What is egg freezing?
Scientifically speaking, egg freezing (also known as oocyte cryopreservation) is the process of extracting a woman’s eggs using the same method as what’s used in vitro fertilization, freezing the eggs and then storing them for future use.
How does egg freezing work?
In preparation for the procedure, a woman undergoes ovarian and hormonal stimulation, which helps the body produce around 20 to 25 mature eggs each month, instead of the usual one mature egg released during ovulation. Like in vitro fertilization, this process involves quite a lot of medications as well as shots, and is by no means considered an easy experience.
After about 4-6 weeks, the woman is ready to undergo the retrieval portion of the procedure. While the woman is under sedation, the doctor uses an ultrasound probe to harvest the mature eggs. From there, they can be frozen and thawed as needed or combined with sperm to create embryos.
At what age should you freeze your eggs?
This is up to the patient, but if you are planning to freeze your eggs, it’s better to do so earlier than later. After the age of 40, it may be more difficult to go through the process. The timeframe that makes the most sense is the early-to-mid 30s, when most women know where their life is headed and whether or not a serious relationship will be a determining factor in their plans to become a parent.
How long can eggs stay frozen?
There is no definite answer to this question, as researchers are still determining the shelf life of frozen eggs. What they do know, however, is that long-term storage of frozen eggs does not affect the quality of the egg or its ability to be fertilized.
What are the benefits to egg freezing?
The benefit is that egg freezing can give a woman the ability to have a baby regardless of her age or relationship status. In addition, it allows a possible pregnancy in the future in the event that she has difficulty conceiving. Unfortunately age is a factor that cannot be compromised no matter how healthy your diet and lifestyle. That being said, you can improve the quality of your eggs while you’re still in prime baby-making years (before 40) by choosing high nutrient foods, lots of antioxidants and balancing your other hormones.
Are there any cons to egg freezing?
The most important thing to know is that egg freezing is safe. Over 5,000 babies have been born from frozen eggs. In addition, the largest study published on the procedure, which analyzed over 900 babies from frozen eggs, showed no increased rate of birth defects. Another study showed no increase in pregnancy complications either. The biggest downside? The cost. In general, the cost to undergo an egg freezing cycle is $10,000. And this price doesn’t include the annual storage free that begins January 1 of the next calendar year. On top of this, there’s a $5,000 fee added when you decide to undergo the embryo transfer. While some companies, namely tech companies, are offering to cover fertility treatments for their employees, we’re still light years away from government-backed financial support.