Freezing your eggs, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, has only recently become a viable option for those women who want to preserve their eggs for future use.
The reality is that there is a limited supply of your eggs. Men continue to produce sperm throughout their entire life but women are born with all the eggs that they will ever have.
Over 80 percent of these eggs are gone before women reach puberty, which means that there are very few eggs available for fertilization.
The quality of these remaining eggs diminishes as a woman gets older. At about age 35 the decline in the quality of eggs continues to decline very significantly.
This means that by the age of 35 if you haven’t yet had a baby, your chances in conceiving become less with each passing year.
As well, the older you are when you’re pregnant, the more risk there are of miscarriage and birth defects for your baby.
Should You Be Freezing Your Eggs?
There are many reasons why women are freezing their eggs for use in the future. Perhaps you’re asking yourself if you should be considering this option so that you can have a baby in the future.
You’ll benefit from oocyte cryopreservation if you meet some of the following criteria:
- You’ve been diagnosed with cancer and require chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or other treatment that can damage your eggs.
- You have chosen to delay pregnancy until a later time in your life for personal or career reasons.
- You have yet to meet a life partner with whom you want to share the childbirth experience.
- You face the risk of infertility from non-cancerous medical issues such as endometriosis, a family history of early menopause, or risk of ovarian failure.
If any of the above are reasons for which you want to freeze your eggs, your next step is consulting a fertility clinic to find out their procedures for oocyte cryopreservation.
Every clinic will have its own procedures and costs involved with oocyte cryopreservation.
When Eggs are Most Fertile
If you decide that freezing your eggs is right for you, your eggs will be retrieved in the same manner as eggs that are retrieved for IVF. If possible, you’ll want to freeze your eggs when their quality is at their best.
The quality of your eggs will peak when you’re 16 to 28 years old. These years are when you are at your prime time for reproduction.
Eggs in the mid-production years (29 to 38) are still acceptable however after the age of 39 egg quality will have declined significantly.
Freezing your eggs is one way that you can slow down your biological clock and have a baby when you’re older without worrying about the low quality of your eggs.
How Freezing Eggs Works
The reproductive egg is the biggest cell in your body and it contains a great deal of water. When the egg is frozen in a normal way, crystals of ice will form on the egg and this can destroy or harm the egg.
For this reason, the egg needs to be dehydrated and frozen using a process known and “vitrification”. During vitrification, the egg is either flash frozen or a slow freeze process is used.
The process used will depend on each fertility clinic.
How Many Eggs Should be Frozen?
Current studies show that if you freeze 10 eggs, only 6 of them will not be destroyed when they are thawed. Of these 6 eggs, only 4 or 5 can be expected to be fertilized so they can then become embryos.
In most cases, 3 or 4 embryos will be in used in each IVF cycle. This means that for each IVF cycle you may need to attempt to become pregnant, you’ll need about 10 eggs.
If you’re under the age of 38 it’s expected that 10 to 20 eggs can be harvested for each ovulation cycle. As you can see, there are a limited number of eggs available for you to freeze.
Your eggs can be frozen for up to 10 years, although at this time this time frame has not been fully tested.
Freezing Your Eggs for a Healthy Pregnancy
The older you get, the more risk there is of miscarriage or of certain abnormalities developing in the embryo such as Down’s syndrome.
Freezing your eggs at a young age can reduce these risks when you decide to become pregnant after the age of 38. Storing your unfertilized eggs opens up many possibilities for you in the future.
You may be more capable and ready to have a baby at the age of 42 than you are at the age of 29. This is a perfectly good reason for wanting to freeze your eggs now.
Pregnancy and childbirth are very personal decisions and with fertility options such as oocyte cryopreservation available to you, you can now plan for your future and decide what’s best for you.