A few years ago, freezing a woman’s eggs to preserve options for fertility in the future, was not something we recommended. The process of collecting eggs, freezing them, storing them, unfreezing them, fertilizing them, transferring them back into a uterus and having a livebirth was just not successful enough to make it a viable option.
Fortunately, technology gets better every day. Now, as this process (and it’s many steps) has become more successful, banking one’s eggs (oocyte preservation) is a real option for women who are worried about their biological clock.
During our patient’s routine well women exams, we always discuss relationship status and plans for childbearing. Our role is to help women lead full lives and be their best self, however they may define it. For women who do want to have biological children in the future, or at least want that option open, but do not foresee it happening before the age of 35, we do discuss concerns around declining fertility.
Most women can get pregnant, even in their late 30s. The number who can’t, however, slowly increases each year and much more so after 40. For whatever reason—career goals, social situations, lack of a partner, etc—a woman may have for delaying childbearing, we do bring up the option of oocyte preservation.
What’s important to know:
There are no guarantees in life
A study published in February showed that for women who preserve oocytes at or younger than the age of 35, if they are able to store at least 10 eggs, they have a 70% chance of having a live birth from use of those eggs. If they store 20, their chances of a live birth go up to 90%. These are great numbers, however it’s not 100%. It’s important to consider that many women who store eggs may actually end up conceiving on their own. It’s also important to consider that women at any age can suffer from infertility. Some women are in their early 20s when they undergo IVF and rarely women in their early 20s are affected by premature ovarian failure. Again, there are no guarantees in life
Though cheaper than IVF, oocyte preservation is not cheap. Some companies are starting to provide insurance coverage for oocyte preservation, but it’s definitely not a standard benefit. Costs range in the $10-15 thousand range.
There is always a consultation, then evaluation by imaging and tests, then shots and blood draws, then extraction. Some women may need multiple cycles to get to their goal of 10 or 20 eggs. Many IVF offices offer free seminars to learn more about oocyte preservation and what’s involved.
There’s no right answer
As with all decisions, only you know what’s best for you. Women build families in all sorts of ways, with or without spouses, with our without biological children of their own, and many include adoption, surrogacy and donor eggs in the mix. Your personal OBGYN is there to guide you to make the best decision for you by making sure you have all the relevant information.