If you’ve got career aspirations, there’s no shortage of stress when it comes to deciding when and how to start a family, and unfortunately for women, time is not on your side. Here are five crucial things to know about fertility preservation as an option for pausing the clock.C
1. Egg freezing is essentially insurance.
Just like car, home, and life insurance protects against unplanned events, so too does egg freezing. Most people don’t plan to wait until their fertility is sub par to start trying to conceive, but the reality of modern day success is such that family planning can sometimes take a back seat to career planning. For women, whose fertility is declining daily (you are actually born with as many eggs as you’ll ever have and then that number continues to decrease throughout your life until menopause), age plays a huge role in the chance of a successful pregnancy. The chance of conceiving naturally with your first pregnancy at age 40 is only 5%, so investing in egg or embryo freezing at age 30 for example, is insurance against needing to face that often shocking reality. In this case, your genetic material will forever be 30 years young, even for a second or third child, whenever that may be.
2. Fertility preservation is EXPENSIVE.
While the cost of egg and embryo freezing varies across different parts of the country, it is overall, an incredibly expensive undertaking, costing around $10,000-$22,000 for the labs, drugs and egg retrieval process. When you factor in the annual freezing costs and eventual thawing of the eggs, you can assume it will be another $10,000.
What’s more, very few insurance plans cover it, unless the reason for the freezing is related to a new cancer diagnosis.
3. The most cost-effective age to freeze your eggs is 37.
But the best time to do it is much younger. The earlier you can freeze your eggs, the better, and that’s because by the time a woman reaches age 40, about 90% of her oocytes are chromosomally abnormal. Why not freeze your eggs in your early 20’s then? Well, because people typically aren’t financially secure enough to drop $7,500+ on fertility when they’re fresh out of college.
It’s for this reason that researchers looked at this exact question: when you mix in all the significant considerations (cost, time, progressing age, likelihood of partner & needing fertility preservation), the most cost-effective age at which to freeze eggs was 37. The problem with that is that it’s not your early 20’s.
4. It’s not guaranteed to work.
Nothing is perfect, and the success of egg freezing has more to do with the age and number of eggs frozen, rather than the process itself. That being said, best estimates of a woman who freezes her eggs before age 38, show a 70 to 80 percent likelihood of taking home a baby, assuming between 15 and 20 initial eggs.
This is taking into consideration the fact that not all frozen eggs will survive the thawing process. Some specialists quote upwards of 84 percent success rate, with ~70 percent of those surviving eggs becoming successfully fertilized.
5. It’s better to freeze embryos over eggs.
If you have the choice, embryos generally thaw better than eggs as they are more robust and further along in the development stage. That being said, plenty of partnered women still choose to freeze eggs over embryos and here’s why. There are no guarantees in life and no way to be sure that, say 10 years down the road, when you eventually thaw your genetic material, you still want to use the same sperm you though you did a decade prior. Freezing eggs allows you to simultaneously insure against time and major life changes. And with vitrification (the newer flash-freezing process) improving rapidly, we may soon reach a space where both eggs and embryos are equally effective.