Egg freezing technology has drastically evolved over the last 20 years. At the Arizona Center for Reproduction Endocrinology & Infertility, the procedure has become fairly routine. While it used to be seen as a costly luxury, today, many women are choosing to freeze their eggs as a way to keep their reproduction options open later in life.
Understanding Age & Fertility
Women are more fertile when they are younger, reaching peak fertility at around age 22. Their fertility declines steadily and inexorably until menopause, which occurs at around the age of 50. Starting at age 35, the decline in fertility is much more rapid, and it’s very difficult to get pregnant naturally beyond the mid-40s.
Many women get pregnant at a younger age simply because they’re more fertile and have a large number of healthy eggs to fertilize. As a woman ages, she has fewer eggs and those eggs are much more prone to errors, so things like miscarriages and Down syndrome can become commonplace.
The “Ideal” Age for a Woman to Freeze Her Eggs
Just because peak fertility is reached at age 22 does not mean every woman needs to freeze her eggs at that age. The ideal age for a woman to freeze her eggs is dependent on her circumstances. It’s difficult for a woman to plan exactly when she intends on starting a family; education, career, and even partner prospects can delay a woman’s decision to get pregnant.
Ideally, a woman would freeze her eggs as young as possible, but it is still a practical option for her up until her mid-30s. The procedure can be done even later than that if the woman decides to freeze and bank multiple cycles of eggs, giving up more to use during in vitro down the line. Once the eggs are frozen, we have a favorable outcome that would allow that woman to have children into even her late-40s.
Egg Freezing Is Like an Insurance Policy
When a woman decides to freeze her eggs, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to use those eggs to achieve a pregnancy. The eggs are more of an insurance policy that ensures she does have the option to get pregnant when she chooses to do so. They allow her to focus on other aspects of her life until she’s ready to have a child.
Egg freezing doesn’t detract from a woman’s future fertility; the eggs that are retrieved and frozen aren’t at all “wasted” or “used up.” No matter the age we freeze a woman’s eggs, she still retains her fertility up until her mid-30s to early-40s, and oftentimes can still get pregnant at that age. So, a woman who freezes her eggs at an early age still has the option to get pregnant naturally later in life.
If a woman is at an older age when she decides to become pregnant and conceiving naturally is difficult, there are several standard fertility treatments that are helpful in overcoming the challenges of getting pregnant that are associated with age. We can try these fertility-enhancing techniques before we opt to use her frozen eggs. If we can achieve a pregnancy based on those treatments we can save her eggs to have a second or third child later on.
When or if we do use the frozen eggs, they would have to be thawed and fertilized with the woman’s partner’s sperm or a donor’s sperm through the standard in vitro process. The resulting embryos would then be transferred to the uterus to achieve a pregnancy. The in vitro process is actually very successful, and most women get pregnant on the first attempt.
If you have specific questions regarding egg freezing or would like to schedule an appointment for the procedure, contact the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility today by calling (520) 326-0001 or visit us online.