I have sat here thinking about how to write an informative blog about egg freezing and the good, bad and ugly sides to it. As an embryologist I thought I knew it all, but it turns out even I had to do my research.
I sat here thinking to myself, why am I trying to write this as a scientist and not considering my options for egg freezing as 39-year-old single women?
As a child I imagined I would finish high school, go to university and then the working world, to find the love of my life, marry and have children.
But as most women find today there is so much opportunity and we don’t always meet Mr. Right, as our lives are just to fast and our careers have so many amazing opportunities.
I have been lucky with my career to have lived in 4 different countries and travelled to over 30 countries in my time. I look back and when I left Australia, I was in my 20’s and now I am 39 and have no idea where that time has gone.
I thought I met Mr. Right in that time but, only a year ago found out he wasn’t leaving me to make the decision to do a social egg freeze, use donor sperm for an IUI or just keep traveling solo.
I am going to share with you ladies the information that I have discovered about egg freezing along my journey, and from experience working as an embryologist and routinely freezing eggs daily for others.
Working in the industry I know very well that egg freezing is not a guarantee for a family in the future. For someone over the age of 38 its is more just offering a donation of cash to the IVF clinic of choice. Women at the age of 38 hit a sharp decline in egg quality and reserve.
The earlier the better when it comes to egg freezing. It is ideally best to freeze your eggs before the age of 35, but keeping in mind this is only a plan B it is not a guarantee of a take home baby in years to come.
Ladies don’t be lulled into the false sense if security that by freezing your eggs you can delay your family further. We need to remember that over all, IVF fails more times than it succeeds.
ASRAM and SART in America in 2013 cautioned women against the use of egg freezing as a guard for freezing fertility in time and prolonging a family, the costs involved and the emotional risks involved with women egg freezing.
Most clinics today will use a freezing method knows as vitrification which is the ultracooling of the egg to avoid ice crystals.
ASRAM and SIRT guidelines indicates that the survival of eggs after using the vitirication technique when thawing the eggs is a 90-97% survival and fertilization is 71-79% with an implantation rate of 17-41% and a clinical pregnancy rate of 4.5-12%.
Now this all sounds very promising indeed and you may wonder what the hype is about. But you need to take note that this data was from women who froze their eggs before the age of 30!
The data produced from ASRAM showed that women under the age of 38 have an estimated rate of a clinical pregnancy that is only 2-12%!
So this is where I was faced with a problem at the age of 39. Typically social egg freezing is offered to women under the age of 38. This is because as women age they have fewer eggs and therefore freezing becomes less beneficial due to the small number of eggs collected per cycle.
The expected success of freezing my eggs at my age will depend on the initial assessment of my ovarian reserve. This is done by an AMH test and ultrasound scan. Although it tells me the approximate remaining quantity of eggs, it doesn’t tell me the quality.
In knowing this I need to think about what if I was to only produce a small number of eggs, and most of those are low quality? What are the chances of them ever making a baby and think about costs involved now and later for an IVF cycle?
The longer I delay having a baby and trying to conceive in my 40s leaves me with more important facts to think about.
Having a baby in my 40s comes with many risks to mum and bub such as increased chance of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, a C-section birth, and the risks of delivering a baby with low birth weight.
They are the risks to mum so what about the baby? Having a baby as older women can mean risks to your unborn child such as premature birth, risks of congenital abnormalities.
Not to mention the costs, anywhere from $6000 AU, to £4,000, or up to $10,000 US per cycle! Would it be best to invest this money into a baby as a single parent?
It is recommended that 15-25 eggs are required for one baby per women under the age of 35, so where does that leave me at 39?
Realistically looking at the statics and knowing what I know as an embryologist my best possible chance is saving the money and starting a family on my own using the eggs I have left in an IUI cycle.
I wished that someone had of told me when I was in my 20s to freeze my eggs as life goes fast and is unpredictable. But realistically I am in my late 30s and need to weigh up all costs mentally, physically and financially.
Do your research on clinics and doctors before undergoing egg freezing, make sure they have proven success and have a been doing egg freeze for enough time to generate accurate data.
Or maybe stop looking for Mr. right and settle for Mr OK and start your family now!
Prof Stern, K 2020, Elective egg freezing: offering empowerment or false hope? Royal Australian and New Zealand college of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Melbourne IVF 2020, https://www.mivf.com.au/treatments-services/fertility-preservation/elective-egg-freezing
Petropanagos, A., Cattapan, A., Baylis, F., and Leader, A., 2015. Social egg freezing: risk, benefits and other considerations ‘CMAJ’ 187(9) 666-669