Egg freezing began more than a decade ago as a way for young women with cancer to preserve their fertility before starting treatment. Since then, oocyte cryopreservation, the medical term for egg freezing, has become a reproductive safety net for healthy women.
In 2018, the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine concluded that planned oocyte cryopreservation is an ethically permissible medical treatment. It is now considered mainstream care for women who want to preserve their reproductive potential.
Women choose to freeze their eggs for many reasons. Overwhelmingly, though, most women today undergo the procedure because they don’t have a stable life partner, a 2018 study by Yale University found.
If you can’t or don’t want to get pregnant now, egg freezing might be a way to extend your biological clock. Deciding whether it’s the right answer for you depends on several factors.
Consider Your Age
Women are born with a finite number of eggs. The younger you are when conceiving, the healthier and more abundant your eggs will be.
As you get older, your risk for miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, and trouble conceiving increases. Unfortunately, your ovarian reserve is always declining. The rate of decline accelerates in a woman’s 30s.
To ensure more viable eggs, most fertility experts recommend freezing eggs before this decline. Planned oocyte cryopreservation is offered at all ages, but is best performed when you are younger and have decided to delay childbearing. If you’re healthy and plan to get pregnant before age 35, freezing eggs may not make sense for you.
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Consider Your Health
Beyond the age limit, good health also makes you a good candidate for oocyte cryopreservation. Experts at the Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital can discuss other things that may affect a future pregnancy, including behavioral factors, chronic diseases, genetics, medicines, sexually transmitted diseases, and vaccinations.
Consider the Costs
Insurance typically doesn’t cover non-medical oocyte cryopreservation. But check your plan as some may offer coverage. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
In vitro fertilization, the process by which thawed eggs are combined with sperm in a Petri dish and then implanted into the uterus, can cost $10,000 or more. You’ll have to pay that cost when you decide to use your frozen eggs.
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Consider Your Partner
Freezing eggs can let you decide when, and with whom, you want to become pregnant. Yet, there are many what-ifs: What if your current or future partner wants to conceive naturally? Will your partner have viable sperm? Is this an expensive fertility insurance policy you’ll never use?
Research shows most women never use their eggs for implantation. Lack of a partner remains the top reason why.
Consider the Risks vs. the Rewards
Ovarian hyperstimulation is the most common risk for women who take fertility medicines to stimulate egg production. Side effects include fatigue, nausea, irritability, headaches, abdominal pain, and breast tenderness. Puncturing your vaginal wall to retrieve the eggs poses a low risk of infection.
For women with serious medical conditions, freezing eggs can greatly improve the chance of a future pregnancy. The success rate using frozen eggs is 36 to 61% live births per embryo transfer, which is similar to normal conception.
In 2014, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautioned against the use of oocyte cryopreservation to extend fertility in otherwise healthy women, citing the lack of data on efficacy, risk, costs, and emotional considerations.
To learn about your specific fertility preservation options, call the UPMC Magee’s Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology at 412-641-1000, option 1. To talk with a fertility preservation expert, call the 412-641-7475.
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For Journals and Media sources:National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. Enterovirus D68. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
For News sources:Dr. Amesh Adalja. A Back to School Victim-Finding Spree for Enterovirus 68. Tracking Zebra. Link
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.