Freezing one’s eggs is a hot topic among women of a certain age; it’s even the theme of an upcoming Garfunkel and Oates episode. If you want to have kids one day and you’re watching your most fertile years speed past sans potential baby-making partner, you’ve likely read a dozen terrifying articles about your dwindling fertility and the pluses and perils of beating your biological clock. To ease your fertility-related anxiety, we asked an expert for the lowdown on egg freezing. Here, five things every woman needs to know.
It’s never too early to do it. By now, we all know we’re born with a finite number of eggs that, over time, naturally expire. Your supply begins to winnow around age 30, says Dr. Alfonso Del Valle, the Medical Director of ReproMed, a fertility clinic in Toronto. By 35, “there is already a significant impact in ovarian reserve—the number of eggs available for a pregnancy,” he explains. By age 43, the odds are even less in your favour: the chance of a successful pregnancy is almost nil, at 1.7 percent.
It can be too late, however. The typical cut-off age for the procedure is 38, says Del Valle, and many experts suggest women in their twenties who know they want to have kids but also know they won’t be able to have them for a while should consider freezing.
Egg freezing is a process. There’s an initial consultation that includes an ultrasound and blood work. And it’s here, during the ‘diagnostic cycle’, that you’ll have a frank conversation about the potential viability of your eggs and next steps. In an ideal scenario, a round of fertility injections (cases vary, but in most cases this is a hormone injection) will follow to stimulate the ovaries to produce as many eggs as possible during ovulation, explains Del Valle. The eggs will then be retrieved using an ultrasound-guided needle that’s inserted vaginally. An embryologist then assesses the eggs and determines which ones are the best candidates for freezing.
It’s pricey. The procedure alone costs approximately $5,600 plus the cost of medications, says Del Valle.
Freezing your eggs opens up future family-making possibilities (and complications). You don’t need to freeze your eggs in hopes of meeting Mr. Right—you can also freeze them while you search for Mr. Right Sperm Donor.
“Thawed eggs can be fertilized with partner sperm,” explains Del Valle, “or in the absence of a partner, they can be fertilized with donor sperm. In some cases, donor sperm is also used to fertilize some of the eggs as a back-up.”
Options will usually be discussed during the diagnostic cycle in order to aim for the best result. For example, if you have a partner or sperm donor in mind, the doctor may suggest fertilizing some of the eggs at the time of extraction as frozen embryos have a better success rate than frozen eggs.