You want to be a mom. You just don’t want to be a mom yet. Whether you’re waiting for the right partner or the right time, freezing eggs could buy you a few more years of fertility.
“The amount of eggs a woman has decreases over time, which makes it harder to get pregnant with advanced maternal age,” explained Laurie McKechnie, a nurse practitioner at Lynn Women’s Health, an OB/GYN practice affiliated with Lahey Health. “The risk for genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, also increases with older eggs. Egg freezing lets you use the eggs of your younger self. So if you freeze your eggs at age 30 and want to get pregnant at age 40, you still have 30-year-old eggs.”
That said, freezing your eggs doesn’t guarantee pregnancy in the future. And the procedure comes with a hefty price tag, so it’s not an option for everyone.
But if you’ve got family planning on your mind, McKechnie says you should consider these four factors before freezing your eggs.
1. Your Timing
According to McKechnie, egg production and quality peaks in your mid-20s. However, most experts recommend waiting until your late 20s or early 30s to freeze eggs, and to do it before age 35.
“Some recent studies have shown that the earlier women freeze their eggs, the less likely they are to use them,” McKechnie said. “If you do it too early, you are likely to meet a partner and get pregnant on your own. If you do it too late, the eggs won’t be as healthy. When you’re heading toward 30, that’s a good time to evaluate where you are, and whether egg freezing might be a good option for you.”
2. Your Health
Your fertility isn’t the only health concern to consider when freezing eggs. Your physical and mental health are also important.
“You want to be your healthiest self before entering into this — when you actually get pregnant and when you retrieve the eggs,” McKechnie said. “That means your blood pressure and blood sugar are under control, your BMI is healthy, your alcohol use is minimal, and no smoking or drugs. Stress also affects these things, so your overall mental health is important, too.”
3. The Process
Egg freezing is a big decision that shouldn’t be made lightly, McKechnie says.
“There’s a lot of thought and preparation that goes into this,” she said. “There are medications you need to take, including about 10 days worth of hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries and cause the egg production. The hormones can make you moody or change your emotions. It’s a lot. The procedure itself isn’t really painful and doesn’t take very long. It’s more what leads up to the retrieval that can be difficult.”
4. The High Cost
One cycle of egg freezing costs between $5,000 and $8,000, according to recent estimates from Time, and some women need to repeat the retrieval process to get enough viable eggs. Hormone injections add at least another $3,000 to the price tag, and cryobank fees run $300 to $1,000 for every year you store the eggs. If you eventually use the eggs, the in vitro fertilization process will cost at least $10,000 more.
All told, egg freezing will run you about $20,000. That’s a lot of money. And even with viable fertilized eggs, there’s no guarantee you’ll get pregnant. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the pregnancy rate from a frozen egg is between 4.5 to 12 percent.
Choose What Works Best for You
“This is not something that everyone can afford to do or should do,” McKechnie said. “But for many women, it can provide the benefit of time.”
McKechnie suggests discussing your family planning concerns with your OB/GYN first. They can perform blood tests to determine your approximate egg count (which will tell you how long you have left to wait) and recommend a good fertility clinic if you want a consultation.
Thinking about freezing your eggs? Check out Lahey Health’s fertility solutions.