Chances are if you are in your 20s or 30s you have at least heard of egg freezing. Maybe you don’t know the details, but you probably know it’s out there. Why the big push? Why does it seem like every other day we are hearing stories about women choosing to freeze their eggs or new companies offering to make the process easier? What’s the big deal?
Egg freezing is a process that allows women to freeze their eggs at their current age and gives them the option to use those eggs in the future, should they need them. Since we know natural female fertility declines as women age, egg freezing may give women additional options if they choose to postpone childbearing for later in life. Even though it seems like we have only recently been hearing about egg freezing, it has actually been around for many years. However, it wasn’t until the experimental label was removed in 2012 that the procedure, and conversation, really started to take off.
As a fertility doctor, one of the worst statements to hear is when a patient says, “I wish I would have known about my fertility/egg freezing 10 years ago, no one ever told me.” It’s heartbreaking to watch a woman in her mid-40s, who has never been pregnant, learn about the natural decline in female fertility and how difficult the journey to get pregnant will be compared to when she was in her 20s and 30s.
So that is the purpose of all of the articles on egg freezing. The reason why more and more companies are offering fertility benefits to women who are seeking to electively preserve their fertility.
Egg freezing is about giving women options.
Options for the future. Maybe you know you want kids one day but haven’t found the right partner. Maybe you have the right partner but know that now is not the right time for kids. Or maybe you are completely unsure about having kids.
Egg freezing can give every one of those women options for their future. Notice I say options, but not a guarantee. I think it is really important to understand what egg freezing is and what is it not.
It is a means of preserving a woman’s ability to have children in the future. But, when you freeze eggs, there is no way of knowing the quality of the eggs that are frozen. We can’t guarantee that when a woman comes back to use her eggs that they will fertilize well or result in an embryo that can be transferred. There is no guarantee that the eggs that are frozen now will successfully result in a live birth in the future. We know that the age a woman freezing her eggs has a big impact on the future success of those eggs resulting in pregnancy (younger women have better quantity and quality of eggs). But there are many factors that go into the future success of those eggs and I think that is a really important distinction for women to be aware of when they are deciding if this process is right for them.
So why consider egg freezing if there is no guarantee those eggs will result in baby in the future?
I think women owe it to themselves and to their health to learn about their fertility, to think about their future reproduction and to then make informed decisions about what they want to do based on facts. Learning about egg freezing and choosing not to do it is just as powerful of a medical decision as a woman who chooses to go forward with the procedure. Only you, with the support and guidance from your doctor, can decide what is best for you.
Educating yourself does not mean you are “giving up the hope of conceiving a baby naturally” it simply means you are taking charge of your health and learning what you can to decide what is best for you and your future. No one should ever feel pressured into freezing their eggs because they think “everyone else is doing it.” Rather, it should be a decision that you make for yourself on your own terms.
By Temeka Zore, MD, FACOG