Egg freezing is rapidly growing in popularity thanks to advances in technology and a greater awareness of the procedure. For many women, egg freezing can offer the freedom to pursue life and career dreams before starting a family or finding the right partner. Because fertility starts to decline rapidly after age 35, freezing your eggs can give you the chance to start a family later in life. Here's what you should know about egg freezing and deciding if it's the right move for you.
What Is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, is a fertility preservation process. This process involves harvesting eggs from your ovaries which are frozen unfertilized and stored for potential use in the future. When the time comes that you wish to use your eggs, they are thawed, injected with sperm and implanted in your uterus using in vitro fertilization.
Of course, the process is a bit more involved than it sounds. Before your eggs can be harvested, you will need to go through recommended STI testing before your cycle begins. Medical professionals will also help you prepare for the egg freezing cycle by explaining how to administer medication.
The cycle begins on the second day of your period. For the next 9 to 12 days, you will need to inject medications that prompt the body to produce multiple eggs. Your progress will be monitored during several office visits. The final step is retrieving the eggs. This process takes about 20 minutes under sedation and involves guiding a thin needle to reach the eggs in the ovaries. The eggs are then transported to a lab and flash-frozen.
What Are the Benefits of Freezing Your Eggs?
If you aren't ready to settle down and have children but think you may want to in the future, egg freezing may be worth considering. Egg freezing has grown in popularity as more women choose to put off having children in favor of travel, building a career, or finding the right partner. There's definitely nothing wrong with waiting to have kids and with egg freezing it's easier and safer than ever.
Here's why many women choose to undergo egg freezing:
- Improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy. Egg quality diminishes as you age. Each month, your chances of conception declines gradually and the likelihood of eggs with chromosomal abnormalities increases. When your eggs are frozen, they are frozen at their peak health to reduce these risks.
- Less pressure to settle down. Many women find that after having their eggs frozen, they feel a great sense of relief and freedom. You don't need to feel rushed to choose a partner because your eggs will be waiting when the right one arrives.
- Enjoy greater freedom to pursue your career and personal goals. You don't need to sacrifice the dream of motherhood for your career and life choices. By freezing your eggs, you can pursue your dreams even while your biological clock is ticking.
Things to Consider
Egg freezing isn't for everyone. While the procedure itself is safe with a good rate of success, it isn't foolproof. One recent double-blind study found that frozen eggs achieve a significantly lower rate of live births than fresh eggs. The likelihood of a live birth in any given fertility cycle is about 56% with fresh eggs and 47% with embryos from frozen eggs. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has found a 77% failure rate of frozen eggs resulting in a birth in 30-year-old women and a 90% failure rate in women who are 40 years old.
Despite the high cost of freezing your eggs, you are not guaranteed pregnancy down the road. When you do decide to settle down and become a mother, there is a chance you will not be able to conceive with your eggs.
The procedure itself is not easy to go through. Egg freezing does have short-term and long-term risks as it requires the use of powerful fertility hormones. Up to one-third of women who undergo ovarian stimulation to increase their number of eggs suffer from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). After self-injecting the medication for up to 13 days, you must also go through the risks of sedation to collect the eggs.
Finally, egg freezing can be very expensive. Costs vary wildly but it costs around $10,000 to harvest eggs from your ovaries. Once the eggs are frozen, you will pay about $500 to $1,000 per year for storage. When you decide to use your eggs, they must be thawed, fertilized, and implanted through IVF at a cost of roughly $5,000. Many women need to undergo multiple IVF procedures. In many cases, the costs are not covered by insurance.
Before making the decision to freeze your eggs you need to give it a lot of careful thought. Only a fraction of women undergo elective egg freezing. One study found just 6% of women ended up using their frozen eggs and only half of them gave birth from the eggs. Most women didn't use their frozen eggs because they conceived naturally or used fresh eggs for IVF. This doesn't mean that egg freezing can't be practical or useful, only that it requires some soul searching to decide if it's the right move for you.
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