Yes, freezing your eggs for future fertilization has become more popular over the past few years, and several actresses have discussed their decisions publicly. Also called oocyte (egg) cryopreservation (freezing), this procedure involves obtaining mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries then freezing and storing them in a specialized “bank” for the future. When a woman is ready to try to become pregnant, the bank will thaw the eggs and send them to an IVF center for fertilization. If the fertilization is successful, the fertilized egg is then implanted into a woman’s uterus, where, if everything goes right, it will grow into a baby.
Why do Women Decide to Freeze and Store Their Eggs?
Here’s the thing, as we age, so do our eggs, and younger eggs are more apt to be successfully fertilized and grow to term. Even if you feel like you’re 28, color your hair, and look years younger, your body and your ovaries know your real age. Women in their late 30s and 40s have lower fertility rates than younger women. It’s sad, but true.
Studies and interviews have shown that women choosing this option are not primarily motivated to postpone pregnancy because of their careers, although that may be a factor. The main reasons women give are that they have not yet met the right partner, or they fear they will not meet the right partner before their child-bearing time runs out. For women who want to increase their chances of having a genetically related child, this is like a type of insurance that gives them some peace of mind about their future fertility.
However, this is not a low-cost option. While some insurance plans cover egg freezing, most don’t. The total cost including implantation can range from about $15,000 to $20,000. Yowza! That’s a lot of money. But before you get sticker shock, there are banks, like California Cryobank, that provide financing plans and refund plans that refund your money if you’re unsuccessful.
What’s Involved in the Procedure?
I had to undergo these treatments when I went through IVF and the steps are similar. At first, you may feel overwhelmed by what’s involved, but there are predictable step-by-step protocols that are easy to follow.
Step one is to teach a woman to give herself hormonal injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs in a cycle than is typical. She is then monitored with blood tests and ultrasounds to see that the eggs are growing and maturing as planned. Women may feel bloated, nauseated, have pelvic and breast tenderness and can be quite moody. This is kind of like a Mega PMS because the ovaries grow larger as they produce multiple eggs. Women are advised not to over-exercise during this time to protect their swollen, enlarged ovaries and to reduce discomfort.
This leads to step two – once the eggs get to a certain size, another injection will be advised which stimulates the egg to undergo their final steps in maturation. Then within about 24-36 hours, while you’re resting comfortably under a mild anesthetic, your practitioner will use an ultrasound to guide the insertion of a thin needle up through the vagina to retrieve the eggs from each ovary.
And then, to step three… freezing. Depending on the protocols of the facility you are working with, your eggs will me examined for defects and the healthy ones will be “flash frozen” in liquid nitrogen. They will then be stored on-site or in a long-term storage bank.
Not a Sure Thing: An Option to Consider
According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal
“…the survival rate of oocytes after retrieval and thawing is 90%–97%, the fertilization rate is 71%–79%.
Reproductive specialists, IVF centers and banks usually publish their pregnancy and live birth rates. A lot of this is dependent upon the age of the woman. Look for a bank that has at least a 40 – 45% pregnancy and live birth rate.
So, if you’re considering freezing your eggs, do your research and start planning when you can follow the steps toward retrieval and start saving.
Good luck and drop me a line if you have any advice for other women.