How much do you know about egg freezing?

Are you noticing many women today are prolonging starting a family? As the biological clock ticks away, more women are considering egg freezing as a viable fertility treatment.

Understanding egg freezing

The process of egg-freezing or oocyte cryopreservation involves stimulating the ovaries with hormones to produce multiple eggs, retrieving the eggs from the ovaries and taking them to the laboratory, where they’re refrigerated to subzero temperatures to be thawed later.[1] The frozen eggs are stored at a cold (-196 degrees) temperature, so they do not deteriorate over time.

The trend of egg freezing is accredited to the increase in women pursuing postgraduate degrees and higher levels of career accomplishments. The stress for time and energy of academics and career vie with those of starting a family.[2] That’s why more women are taking advantage of newer fertility options with egg freezing.

Fertility preservation and egg freezing also benefit women diagnosed with cancer in childbearing years. These women can undergo egg freezing and then go through the necessary radiation and chemotherapy, knowing they can start a family in the future. Fertility preserving options vary depending on age, type of cancer, and cancer-treatment plan.

Advancing age refers to egg quality

When you read about advancing age regarding conception, scientists are targeting the issue of egg quality. The longer an egg sits in the ovary, the more likely it is to develop abnormalities in its chromosomes. If an egg with abnormal chromosomes is fertilized, then the chances are greater that the resulting pregnancy will end in miscarriage. Studies confirm that more than half of all miscarriages are due to abnormal chromosomes.

A woman’s eggs are the healthiest around age 25. The maximum female fertility occurs in the mid-twenties when menstrual cycles are the most regular and ovulatory. Also, fertility is slightly decreased before age 20 and after age 30. Women over age 37 are much less fertile. In fact, the prevalence of infertility increases significantly after age 35, and by age 45, as many as 99 percent of women are infertile.[3] [4]

Today, millions of women at age 25 are just finishing higher education at or starting their careers, so egg freezing gives them a safe option to preserve fertility for their future family.

Why egg freezing is beneficial

Because fertility declines with age, freezing the eggs at an early reproductive age will best protect a woman’s chance for a future pregnancy. Unlike the ovary and eggs, a woman’s uterus does not age and can carry a pregnancy well in to the 40s and 50s.

For women with cancer, chemotherapy, radiation or surgery can destroy the eggs and lead to infertility. Egg freezing allows women to save viable eggs for a future time.

Women who have a family history of early menopause may choose to preserve healthy eggs at a younger age. This allows them to consider having a future family before their eggs are depleted.

No longer a risky proposition

Once considered a risky treatment, freezing eggs and having them fertilized later is no longer experimental. Thanks to a leading-edge technology called vitrification.[5] This involves ultra-rapid egg freezing verses traditional slow freezing. The water-like substances in the egg are moved without cracking the egg, which used to occur during freezing and thawing.

As of fall 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) took the “experimental” label off egg freezing. Today, there have been more than 2,000 live births from frozen eggs.

Egg freezing is a costly procedure

At most fertility centers, egg retrieval costs about $10,000, and that doesn’t include the fertility drugs, which range from $3,000 to $5,000. Although some women are covered by their insurance companies, most are not because egg freezing is an elective procedure.

Keeping the eggs in cold storage costs from $500 to $1,000 in annually. When the woman is ready to use the eggs later in life, they are thawed and fertilized. The in vitro fertilization process (IVF) begins and costs between $3,500 and $5,000.[6]

Now you may have the option

Maybe you thought you’d be married with kids by age 30 — but here you are, you’re 31 and single still and you love your job. It’s good to know some companies are offering egg freezing as an option. In a recent FertilityIQ’s survey, employees whose companies fully covered their fertility treatments said they were more grateful, more loyal, and inclined to stay longer at their workplaces than they would have been had they not had the option. [7]

 


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[1] 7 things every woman should know before freezing her eggs. PBS Newshour. December 10, 2014. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/freeze-eggs/

[2] Mathews, TJ, Ventura, SJ. National Vital Statistics Report. Birth and Fertility Rates by Educational Attainment: United States, 1994. www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/97facts/edu2birt.htm.

[3] Menken J, Trussell J, Larsen U. Age and infertility. Science. 1986;233(4771):1389.

[4] Female age-related fertility decline. American Society of Reproductive Medicine Pages. http://www.asrm.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/female_age-related_fertility_decline-noprint.pdf.

[5] Principles of cryopreservation by vitrification. Methods of Molecular Biology. 2015;1257:21-82. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2193-5_2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25428002

[6] 7 things every woman should know before freezing her eggs. PBS Newshour. December 10, 2014. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/freeze-eggs/

[7] The Best Companies To Work For As A Fertility Patient: 2016 – 2017 Rankings https://www.fertilityiq.com/cost/2016-best-companies-to-work-for-as-a-fertility-patient-corporate-fertility-benefits-rankings