As we live in the days of modernization, more and more women have other priorities besides having children. While some women do not want children at all, others would still like to have them later in life. Egg freezing is considered by some people as a way to defy the biological clock, as it provides the possibility of preserving the younger and much healthier eggs, extends the childbearing years of women, and offers additional reproductive options.
It still remains a controversial issue, and while your doctor might talk to you about the importance of delaying pregnancy in some cases, it is unlikely that egg-freezing will be given to you as an option for a variety of reasons.
What is egg freezing?
As a woman aged, the fertility also declines. The eggs may contain more chromosomal abnormalities, and women will not get conceive easily naturally as they aged. According to ACOG, chances of getting pregnant naturally at 45 is almost impossible. If a woman wants a child but is not able or ready to conceive at the present time, a dedicated facility can freeze her eggs for use at a later date. Egg freezing is not a guarantee of successful pregnancy but it offers great hope to those women who want to get conceive at a later time.
In medical language, egg-freezing is called oocyte cryopreservation—it is a fertility preservation technique wherein eggs are harvested from the ovaries and are frozen so that they can be used for an assisted reproductive technology procedure at a later time. Once you’re ready to have a baby, your frozen egg can be thawed, combined with a sperm in a lab, and implanted in your uterus (in vitro fertilization).
If you are thinking about egg freezing, your doctor will discuss with you the procedure (a very lengthy one), how it works, the potential risks, and if this procedure is suited for your based on your needs, as well as your medical and reproductive history.
Can you freeze the egg? Who would be the most benefit from egg freezing? This treatment may become useful for women who face the below conditions:
- For Young women who are cancer patients before going to chemotherapy is best to preserve their healthy eggs for future use.
- Women who are undergoing IVF, preserve some healthy eggs in case of unforeseen circumstances during IVF treatment.
- Young and single women who wish to preserve their healthy eggs to be used at a later time.
Many fertility centers can help you with this procedure. Talk to your doctor to find out more.
Why you might want to freeze your eggs?
If you are not yet ready to get pregnant but you want to make sure that you can do so in the future, egg freezing can technically buy you the time you need. This procedure doesn’t require sperm as the eggs do not need to be fertilized before they are frozen, unlike embryo cryopreservation or fertilized egg freezing. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to do egg freezing.
Pre-existing medical condition.
As you age, your fertility is affected, and so much so when you have a pre-existing medical condition. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and myasthenia gravis and other medical conditions such as sickle cell anemia can greatly affect your fertility. Freezing your eggs can be an option if you want to have a baby later when your symptoms are more manageable and it is safer for you to get pregnant.
Treatment for illnesses.
Some medical conditions do not directly affect your fertility, but the treatments might. Radiation and chemotherapy are known medical treatments that can harm your ability to get pregnant. If you are in this case, egg freezing before the treatment can give you the option to have biological children later, when you are much healthier.
Religion and ethical beliefs.
During in vitro fertilization, some people choose egg freezing instead of embryo freezing due to ethical and religious beliefs.
Other non-medical reasons.
These non-medical reasons include your career goals, travel plans, current lifestyle, as well as not having found the right partner (yes, this is valid and actually the number one reason why women do egg freezing according to research).
Things to consider before freezing your eggs
When you think about it, egg freezing can sound like an answer to a prayer, as it technically allows you to do what you want and still have your dream family later in life. Talk about having everything you want. However, as much as it sounds too good, there is a lot of things that you need to consider before doing this procedure. Here are some of them:
Egg freezing is not a guarantee of your forever fertility.
Some people think that when they have their eggs freeze, their biological clock is invincible—they hold on to the guarantee they give themselves that they can get pregnant whenever they want in the future. The truth is, egg freezing is not a guarantee. The number of eggs that survive during the warming process and the number of viable and healthy eggs that come out of storage cannot be determined until the time when you need them comes.
Women who are considering freezing the eggs shall be aware that successful pregnancy is less common. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine stated the chance of each frozen egg leading to a live birth is between 2 and 12 percent for women under 38 years old. This suggests that women may need to undergo multiple IVF cycles to become pregnant following egg freezing. It is a long battle with time.
No matter how, the egg freezing is still an alternative for those who want to conceive at a later time. Frozen eggs are better than fresh eggs from older women in terms of better chances of fertilization. When you freeze the egg, you stop them from aging.
The egg harvesting can be a daunting process.
A number of ultrasounds to check your overall ovarian function, multiple blood tests to evaluate your ovarian reserve and check for infectious diseases, synthetic hormones and medicines to make the retrieval procedure a success, and maybe several trips to the clinic are just some of the many things you need to do before you get to the part where your eggs are frozen. It’s quite a long and a not-so-easy process.
Physical and mental exhaustion can strike you too if you fail to get the outcome that you desire. You will not only get multiple times of hormones injections, blood test, some of you will suffer from side effect after egg retrieval like cramping, blotting, spotting, weight gain, mood swings and headache. Long term complication can be a high risk of ovarian cancer according to this 2015 study.
It is expensive.
The costs of procedure and the cost of egg storage are not inexpensive. FertilityIQ says one egg freezing cycle can cost between $15,000 to $20,000, plus egg storage which can cost up to $1200 per year depending on where you go. Some women may not need the frozen eggs for 10-15 years, and the storage cost will continue to build-up over the years. Insurance is unlikely to cover on this.
There is nothing that we can do about the reality of time, and even guarantee a baby in the future, but egg freezing can increase your chance of conception at a later time. It is a workable option if you want to delay your pregnancy. However, before you decide to freeze your eggs, take the time to do your research and weigh your options. Remember—even if you don’t freeze your eggs, many possibilities await you towards parenthood. You may even conceive on your own in the future.
And when you got successful in this journey, don’t forget to get this pregnancy survival kit.