You may not know, women’s eggs have an expiration date on them. In fact, women who menstruate may lose about 1,000 of their eggs each month.
Thanks to decades of research and reproductive medicine, women can now freeze their eggs to extend their fertility. In 2019, more than 36,000 women in the U.S. froze their eggs. And that number of women has significantly risen each year since.
But it turns out there’s more to it than just preserving a woman’s fertility. Freezing eggs is becoming a “social” trend instead of historically being medically focused. We’ve dug deep into why more women are freezing their eggs–keep reading for all the information!
Reasons Why More Women Are Freezing Their Eggs
Traditionally, the majority of egg freezing has been chosen due to medical reasons like cancer, autoimmune diseases, endometriosis, and ovary removal. But with more women not knowing if they even want families or striving to focus on other things in their life first, social egg-freezing is becoming popular. Here are some alternative reasons for egg freezing.
You haven’t found the right partner
Choosing someone to raise kids with is a big decision. Some women might know without a doubt they want a family but just haven’t met that perfect match yet. So, many women will turn to egg freezing as a proactive measure. This creates some peace of mind to ensure they have options available in case it takes a little longer than expected to find the right partner.
You want to focus on your career
Many women are determined to establish themselves in a career before considering starting a family. This might mean waiting until you get that new job title you’ve been working towards for years before thinking about kids. This can also be the case for moms who already had a child at a young age and have since been working their way up the professional ladder to their dreams before having more children.
You aren’t sure if you want kids (or more)
And then there are just some women who don’t know if they want kids at all–or more at that. These women know there’s a ticking time clock on fertility but just aren’t sure what they want. Freezing eggs can take the pressure off making that huge decision right now.
You want to be financially stable
Financial considerations also play a significant role in this decision-making process. Raising children requires some sort of financial stability–whatever that may mean to you. Freezing eggs can help women work towards their financial goals and plan for future parenthood when and if they feel more secure. That could mean working their way up to buying a house, having a chunk of money in a savings account, and paying off any loans.
The Egg Freezing Process
Freezing your eggs takes a bit of preparation and consists of multiple steps. In totality, the process from start to freeze takes a couple of weeks. Seem a little longer than expected? That’s because time, preparation, and patience is the key to retrieving healthy eggs. The egg-freezing process consists of five steps, according to the experts at Johns Hopkins Health System.
1. Hormone injections. This initial phase focuses on getting the body to produce a healthy batch of eggs. To do this, women have to self-inject themselves with two to three hormones each day for 10 to 12 days. These hormones stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce multiple eggs, rather than just one naturally per menstrual cycle.
2. Ultrasounds. During these hormone injections, doctors want to track the development of your eggs to see how they are progressing. During this period, you can expect four to six ultrasounds, blood work, and frequent check-ups.
3. Egg retrieval. Once the ultrasounds and blood work results show your eggs are mature, it’s time to collect them. This involves an ultrasound-guided surgical procedure under anesthesia to carefully retrieve the eggs. The process normally takes between 20 and 30 minutes.
4. Egg examination. An embryologist, or trained doctor that examines female eggs, will verify the eggs are mature enough and have the potential to become successfully fertilized at a later date.
5. Vitrification. The fertility specialist will take healthy mature eggs and start them through a process called vitrification–a method of putting eggs into a quick deep freeze. Once they are fully frozen, they’re stored in liquid nitrogen tanks in an embryology lab until they are ready to be fertilized with a partner’s or a donor’s sperm which is done in vitro fertilization–or a laboratory dish.
How long do frozen eggs last?
Your eggs can essentially last indefinitely while frozen. However, most women typically use their eggs 5 to 10 years after freezing. A fertility center in Texas noted that babies have even been born from eggs that were frozen for more than a decade. The time frame is really a personal preference!
Success Rates of Egg Freezing
On average, women who thaw more than 20 mature eggs have a 58 percent chance of live birth. It’s also important to note that the younger a woman’s age is at freezing time, the more of a chance they have of successfully reaching birth. SO Women who freeze their eggs under 38 years old typically achieve a 70 percent live birth rate. Plus, the success rate remains unchanged regardless of how long the frozen egg storage time is.
Costs of Egg Freezing
The costs of egg freezing can be quite significant. Although prices can vary based on your location, here’s a breakdown of all the expenses you can expect from freezing eggs, according to New Hope Fertility Clinic in New York City.
- Egg freezing procedure: $4,500 to $8,000
- Hormone injections: $4,000 to $6,000
- Egg storage fees: $500 to $1,000 per year
Does insurance cover egg freezing?
This is a common question most fertility clinics receive. And here’s the answer: your typical health insurance normally doesn’t cover egg freezing–especially if it’s not considered medically necessary. Although, more businesses these days are opting into adding extra benefits for their employees to help with egg-freezing costs. This is based on preference and is optional for each employer to offer.
Egg Freezing Considerations
When it comes to deciding to freeze your eggs, there are some considerations. Taking the time to thoroughly think through these factors will ensure you’re making an informed and well-prepared decision.
Age is one of the most important factors when it comes to freezing your eggs. The older you get, the lower the chances of finding healthy eggs for fertilization become. Doctors at Johns Hopkins Fertility Center note that women who freeze their eggs before age 40 have a higher chance of achieving pregnancy. But the golden age range for freezing eggs is usually between 32 and 38 years old–this is when it seems the most logical and balanced according to The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
Egg freezing side effects
It’s common for women to experience some mildly uncomfortable side effects from both the injection and retrieval parts of the egg-freezing process. This is why it’s important to know what you can expect before starting. Let’s take a look at each.
Hormone injection side effects:
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
Egg retrieval postoperative side effects:
- Mild pain
All of these side effects are very common and are typically not too severe. Most women help these subside with over-the-counter medicine, heating pads, and warm baths. Your fertility doctor will help you find any relief you need.
Egg freezing costs
Not only is choosing to freeze your eggs a huge decision, but the expenses are a big factor as well. We learned earlier that at a minimum, you can expect to pay $8,500 just for the procedure and medications. Storage will cost you a bit extra, at about $750 on average each year.
The Rise of Egg Freezing
More women are focusing on their careers, waiting to find the right partner, and putting a priority on finances these days. And with today’s scientific advances, it’s no surprise more and more women are opting to freeze their eggs so they can make these big decisions later.
Every woman’s journey is unique and there are no right or wrong answers. The decision to freeze eggs is a deeply personal one. So when it comes to family planning–or lack thereof–it helps to know all your available options to lessen the external pressures of the world.