Should I freeze my eggs?
Whether or not to freeze one’s eggs is a big question for a woman in her reproductive years.
While these years may mean that your eggs are ready, you may not feel that the time is entirely right for you, especially if you’re facing a serious illness such as cancer, studying further, climbing the corporate ladder, travelling the world or still waiting to meet “Mr Right”.
With a world of possibilities at your feet it can often feel as though there’s not enough time to fit in everything you want to do AND have babies. Or your life circumstances may not be amenable to allowing for the consideration of starting a family just yet, you may not have met the man you want to spend your life and have a family with, or if you have, you may still be working towards being financially stable. Alternatively, you may be at a stage where starting a family is the furthest thing from your mind for a number of reasons and possibly even be unsure as to whether it’s something you ever want at all (but at the back of your mind wonder if that may change in future when it’s potentially too late).
Regardless of what’s going on in your personal or professional life, when it comes to considering starting a family, it may seem as though you don’t have many choices that don’t place immense pressure on you to make a decision one way or another or you may be of the opinion that you still have years to decide.
However, gynaecologists and fertility specialists will caution you that the ‘wait and see’ approach you may be tempted to apply as a way to delay decision making regarding having children in your twenties and early thirties often has serious ramifications further down the line when falling pregnant naturally at an advanced age (read: your mid to late thirties) when you finally feel ready, becomes difficult.
It is for this reason that many specialists advise that a woman should decide on where she stands with regards to family planning by the age of 27, and should have either completed her family or be ready to fall pregnant at this age, as this is around the time that the biological clock’s top functioning begins to decline.
All of this can quickly make one feel overwhelmed and like it’s all too much too soon. However, advancements in modern medicine and fertility preservation can offer you the luxury of time (to a degree) in making this life changing decision, allowing you to freeze your young, healthy eggs to be used at a future date, if you so choose.
Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, is an approach used to preserve a woman’s reproductive potential. Eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries and frozen unfertilised (stored) for later use (harvesting). Frozen eggs are then thawed and fertilised with donor sperm (anonymous or not) in a lab and then implanted in the uterus (in vitro fertilisation / IVF).
Did you know? Egg production is the limiting factor in pregnancy rate during our reproductive years. The uterus is capable of carrying a baby for years after all of a woman’s eggs become non-viable. Thus, chances of conception are at their best when we’re younger or if eggs harvested earlier in life (ideally in one’s twenties) are used later in life. A woman can elect to freeze her eggs at the age of 25 with the intention of potentially only trying to fall pregnant through fertility means in her late thirties. This gives her the option of having a baby at an age that may prove more difficult to achieve this at naturally.
Your ‘biological clock’ actually refers to your ovaries and not your uterus. The age at which you have your eggs harvested is what makes the difference. They will remain your ‘younger’ eggs when you finally do have them implanted and fertilised. Younger eggs are usually healthier, providing you with a better chance of success.
This process is not without some serious consideration though as it does involve considerable expense, testing and a degree of invasiveness that will require the administration of injections and medication as well as monitoring. It is also not a 100% guarantee of a future pregnancy, but can often offer you the best chances of a viable pregnancy later in life.
Once you understand how fertility preservation works and the risks involved (with advice from your doctor, gynaecologist or a fertility specialist and the information that follows), and marry that up with your personal goals and reproductive history, it is easier to make a decision that feels most right for you.