Is Egg Freezing Right for You?

Over the past few months, there has been much ado in the media about egg freezing for young women because of two developments in modern culture. First, young, career-oriented women in New York and California are being invited to “chill” and learn about the procedure over cocktails at egg-freezing parties. Then, in mid-October, Silicon Valley companies Facebook and Apple announced they would cover egg freezing as a benefit. egg_freezing.jpgThe debate has been intense over whether women were being “sold” on the procedure and whether businesses offering egg freezing as a benefit were offering the next step in reproductive freedom or corporate control.

If you can sort through all the media frenzy and get down to the facts, women should decide for themselves — based on their social and financial circumstances — whether elective egg freezing (just like any other elective medical procedure) is right for them. Here are some facts to consider.

WHAT IS EGG FREEZING?

Egg freezing — also called oocyte vitrifcation — is performed after retrieving eggs in the same manner as one would during in vitro fertilization (IVF). A woman takes injectable fertility drugs to stimulate the growth and development of multiple eggs within the ovaries. Once the eggs are fully developed, they are retrieved with  a minor surgical procedure called transvaginal ultrasound-guided aspiration, which generally takes about 10 to 20 minutes under conscious sedation. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina, and then a needle is directed through the vaginal wall and into each ovarian follicle, and the egg and fluid are collected with gentle suction.

After retrieval, the egg is placed in a small volume of a medium containing cryoprotectant. It is then cooled at an extremely rapid rate compared, which eliminates ice crystal formation (a problem in the older, slow way of freezing eggs). The vitrified egg is then stored in liquid nitrogen until such time that it needs to be thawed and utilized.

A little over two years ago, the “experimental” label for egg freezing was lifted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The ASRM report found that advances in egg-freezing techniques now produce rates of pregnancy and healthy babies comparable to those seen with IVF using fresh eggs.This is important to note because most women have per cycle success rates of 25 to 60 percent for IVF for most couples based on age and various infertility factors. And IVF success depends on many things, such as age, weight, ovarian reserve, etc.

SHOULD YOU CONSIDER EGG FREEZING?

In my fertility practice, I recommend that if a woman has a male partner and wants to preserve her fertility for the future for medical or other reasons, the best choice is to go ahead and freeze embryos. But if a woman is under 40, with a normal FSH hormone level and normal AMH— and cannot or does not want to get pregnant now either due to medical reasons, lack of a male partner or other personal reasons such career, travel or education — then egg freezing may offer her the best chance for having a genetic child that she otherwise might not have had.

That said, the average age for women to freeze their eggs is currently 37. Ideally, freezing your eggs would be something to think about and plan for in your 20s and then have the procedure done in your early 30s before fertility starts a steeper decline at 35.

Why start thinking about it in your 20s? The procedure costs approximately $8,000-$9,000 plus medications. If it is not covered by a company’s insurance plan, many women talk to their parents and ask them for a loan or to help them pay for it. Or, they start saving in preparation for the future. CapexMD specializes in providing patient financing for infertility couples or fertility preservation. ( www.CapexMD.com )

In addition, it is important to go ahead and assess your overall fertility. One way to do this is with a Fertility Awareness Check-Up through my practice. This is an inexpensive opportunity for a woman to assess her fertility potential with basic fertility testing for just $90.

There are no guarantees with egg freezing, just as there are no guarantees with any kind of insurance you buy, whether it is for car, home or health. At this time, however, egg freezing is the best solution to allowing a woman to age without experiencing a significant decrease in her ability to conceive a child. And if you are healthy, are informed and have realistic expectations about the procedure, and wish to delay childbearing for any reason — whether it’s medical, career or haven’t found the right partner — then egg freezing may be right for you.

If you have any questions about egg freezing, please contact me atlaurence.jacobs@integramed.com.