Maybe you decided to read this article because you’ve heard a lot about egg freezing in the news lately. Maybe your OB/GYN mentioned it after suggesting your irregular periods might be caused by PCOS (1 in 10 women have it). Or maybe you’ve been looking into having kids later in life so you can focus on your career, social or love life.
Or maybe you’re a chicken farmer and expected this article to be about a different type of egg freezing entirely.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding egg freezing. Some see it as a “feminist” revelation akin to birth control pills, empowering women to choose when they want to have a baby, allowing women to focus on their career instead of their biological clock, evening the playing field with men. Others see it as something almost anti-feminist, preying on women’s fears of infertility and being single their whole lives, pressuring them to conform to gender norms. Still others see it as a way to tell women their jobs are more important than family.
There’s a lot of chatter out there about the pros and cons of egg freezing but not so much attention on the facts: What is it, how does it work, and most importantly, should you freeze your eggs? So let’s cover the basics of egg freezing, and you can make an informed decision for yourself about whether it’s right for you.
What is egg freezing?
At the basic level, egg freezing is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a means of fertility preservation, in that it involves actually freezing a woman’s egg cells. Fertility preservation for men is a pretty straight forward procedure; women, however, don’t have an “external” contribution to the reproductive process, so fertility preservation is somewhat more complicated.
The egg freezing process starts with taking fertility medication to increase the number of fertile eggs that can be harvested at once. Then a fertility specialist preforms a minimally invasive procedure to harvest the healthy eggs from the woman’s ovaries. The eggs are then preserved using a special freezing process, called vitrification. These eggs are then kept in a sort of suspended animation until the woman decides she is ready to use them, after which they can be thawed and used for an in vitro fertilization procedure (sometimes called IVF.) IVF involves fertilizing the eggs outside of a woman’s body and then implanting them into her uterus where they can attach to the uterine wall. The rest of the story you should remember from health class!
Why would I freeze my eggs?
If you know you won’t be emotionally ready or you cannot afford to have children of your own until after your peak reproductive years (18-30), you may want to consider fertility preservation. Freezing your eggs at 25 (for example) means that if you use them at 40, the eggs are effectively 15 years younger. Older eggs are not only less viable in general, but carry a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities, which cause things like Down syndrome.
From a psychological perspective, by freezing your eggs you may dampen your biological clock’s ticking, allowing you to focus on other things like your social life, your career, traveling the world, or building that special romantic relationship. Egg freezing is a kind of insurance policy so that no matter when you want to have kids or why you want to postpone it, you have access to healthy younger eggs that give you the best chance of producing a viable pregnancy when you’re older.
For certain women at risk for infertility issues like PCOS or Premature Ovarian Failure you may want to consider freezing your eggs now to offset the costs of doing round after round of IVF later with less-effective past-their-prime eggs. Which of course brings us to a very important question for most women thinking about egg freezing…
How much does egg freezing cost?
The price does vary a little depending on where you go, but on average, egg freezing costs about $8,000 per cycle. More than one cycle may be necessary to collect the optimal number of eggs for freezing, especially for women who are already over 35. There is also a monthly fee to keep the eggs in storage– around $50 per month. When the time comes and you’re ready for children, the cost of IVF without retrieval (removing the eggs) can range from $6,000-$15,000, depending on your location and situation.
So how the heck can I afford to freeze my eggs?!
Well, there are several ways to be able to pay for egg freezing. Many fertility clinics that offer egg freezing also offer payment plans and access to financial professionals who can provide you with affordable loans specifically for fertility treatments.
Some people have crowd funded their fertility treatments through social media (really!) on sites like GoFundMe.com. However, a less eyebrow-raising way to go get the money for egg freezing would be to ask family members and close friends (especially potential grandparents and godparents!) for contributions to a fertility fund for birthdays and holiday gifts or even instead of wedding gifts.
If preserving your fertility is important to you, it might mean sacrificing vacations or larger purchases for a few years. That amount of cash may seem unattainable, but then think about how many people do things like buy a new car and suddenly $8,000 seems much more manageable.
To freeze or not to freeze?
A great question, but one only you know the answer to. If you know that you might have fertility issues in the future because of a medical condition or certain types of cancer treatments, you should definitely talk to a fertility specialist about egg freezing. If you know that you’re going to be delaying having a baby until past 35 for whatever reason, you should consider elective egg freezing and seek out additional information on the risks and benefits. There are several great websites with information on egg freezing to allow you to make an informed decision. To help you make a decision, talk to your family. Talk to your spouse/significant other. Talk to your friends. Talk to your doctor. Maybe talk to your accountant, too.
Deciding when you’re ready to have a baby is such a personal decision that no one should be judged for. Egg freezing might make that decision a little easier for some.