Should I consider freezing my eggs?
If you want to have a biological child, but perhaps you’re not yet ready to become pregnant and have a baby at this stage of your life, you can consider freezing your eggs. This method helps you to become a mother and have a biological child of your own later in your life.
A woman can elect to use this fertility method as a form of ‘insurance policy’. While fertility methods may not always guarantee a successful pregnancy every time, they can make the process of deciding to start a family much simpler should this not happen naturally.
If you find that you struggle to conceive naturally, then having eggs in storage from as young an age as possible provides the best possible chances of being able to conceive at a time that works for you without placing strain on other areas of your life, such as work or relationships.
Egg freezing doesn’t require a sperm donation. You should give sperm donation some thought though. There will come a time when you will need to fertilise your eggs in order to try and fall pregnant. For this you will need a sperm donation (either from an anonymous donor or someone you know and trust, such as a romantic partner who is committed to starting a family with you).
Your harvested eggs won’t be fertilised before they are frozen, so if you meet ‘Mr Right’ down the line and don’t conceive naturally, then there’s still the option of having a child together with him as the sperm donor, and a little medical assistance for the fertilisation process. If during your full, busy life ‘Mr Right’ never comes along, then you have the option of using a sperm donor to father your child.
Other than preserving your younger eggs for future use, egg freezing may also be a good option if:
- You are undergoing treatment for an illness that can affect your fertility potential: You may be undergoing medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, during your reproductive years. These types of treatments can cause harm to your fertility. While it may not seem like the obvious thing to think about when you’re facing a life-threatening illness you should freeze your eggs before you begin treatment, ensuring that you have a better chance of being able to have a biological child later in life when you are healthy again, thus preventing the illness from having more far reaching effects on your life in future.
- You have opted to have a baby through IVF: There are several reasons IVF is considered. You or your partner may have problem with fertility, or perhaps you’re single and choose this method to try and fall pregnant. In the case of a partner being unable to produce sufficient sperm on the day your eggs are harvested, freezing may be needed.
Important questions to ask yourself and discuss with your specialist:
- Pregnancy planning: At what age do I want to fall pregnant and have a baby? Take into consideration your age and the probability of being able to naturally fall pregnant at that time (with a partner) and measure this against the probability of a successful pregnancy at the same age using frozen eggs.
- How many eggs will my specialist recommend I freeze? Your specialist will help guide you on this one. Your age is going to be a big factor in how many eggs will be recommended for harvesting, as will egg quality. If 20 to 30 eggs are harvested, six to eight of these may be thawed for each implantation / pregnancy attempt. It may even be recommended that you undergo hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries more than once and freeze more than one batch of eggs.
- What if there are unused eggs? You might be lucky and fall pregnant with few implantation attempts, and have harvested eggs left unused. The choice is yours. You can choose to have them discarded, or you can opt to donate them to a couple trying to have a baby or a research facility.
What to take into consideration
Fertility specialists and clinics with expertise in the field are ideal starting points for you to begin gaining a better understand of what egg freezing will entail and whether it is a viable option for you.
Experts in this field are commonly referred to as reproductive endocrinologists (or fertility specialists / reproductive specialists). A clinic’s success rate depends on many factors, most importantly the ages of their patients. It is a good idea to keep this in mind when getting into the statistical data of frozen egg related pregnancies and successful live births.
Each stage of the process costs money, including annual storage fees, and the associated expenses can add up quickly. Request detailed information about the costs involved with each and every step of the process, as well as any potential payment plan offerings (if these may be needed). The process also involves screenings and tests before the harvesting stage even takes place. The biggest expense however, is the egg stimulation stage, retrieval (harvesting) and freezing process.
Egg freezing is not just as simple as making an informed decision and going ahead with your plan. Your body and overall health has a say in whether you have a good chance of success or not. A healthy body helps to promote optimum egg quality.
Your specialist will recommend specific tests. These include:
- Ovarian reserve testing: This is done to determine the quality and quantity of your eggs. The concentration of follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and estradiol in your blood (on day 3 of your menstrual cycle) may be tested. The hormone, AMH (anti-Mullerian hormone) is tested as a way to gauge a woman’s ovarian reserve. This hormone is normally secreted by cells in developing egg follicles (sacs). The results of AMH tests will be used to help predict how your ovaries are likely to respond to the fertility medication. Blood tests and an ultrasound (which will help to measure the actual size of an ovary) will also be recommended to gain a more detailed assessment of your ovarian function and help to determine your ovarian reserve (supply) as well. An antral follicle count is done during a high-quality ultrasound scan and measures the egg reserve as a way to predict the odds of a successful fertility treatment process based on the supply available.
- Infectious disease screening: Screening for infectious diseases, such as HIV, and hepatitis B and C is vitally important. If you do have one of these diseases, it is still possible to freeze your eggs, however your eggs will be collected, frozen and stored separately (in a separate laboratory).