Is Egg freezing a healthy choice in your early 30s?
If you want kids, but not yet decided or are not sure, some women see freezing their eggs, aka fertility preservation or oocyte cryopreservation, as a security blanket of sorts. The process has its benefits, especially if one’s not in a having-a-child mindset at the moment.
The benefits of egg freezing are the same for all women: freezing your eggs preserves their youth and their health, giving you a better chance of a healthy pregnancy later.
However, the average age at which women freeze their eggs is around 37, with many women freezing their eggs in their late 30s and early 40s. For the best chance of success at a live birth in the future, it is best to freeze your eggs before you are 36.
In fact, women who freeze their eggs may have even better chances at pregnancy than a typical IVF patient; because most women undergoing IVF already have an underlying problem with fertility that healthy egg freezers might not have. This gives us one way to approximate egg freezing success rates.
National Centre for Health Statistics researchers reported that birth rates declined to “record lows” in 2016, especially for women under 30. The only exception was for women over 30; in fact, women ages 35–39 had birth rates 2% higher in 2016 than the year before, the highest rate in that age group since 1962. What does this tell us? Women are having fewer children overall, but they’re also having children later in life than ever before. This is confirmed by another trend the CDC has noted: the maternal age at first birth keeps climbing, hitting its highest value ever in 2014.
Why are women waiting longer? Well, it’s 2019. Women nowadays have more options—professionally, socially, and educationally—than they ever have before, paired with widespread access to reliable birth control. The downside is that our biology hasn’t quite caught up—and this is why egg freezing benefits our lives. We hit “peak fertility” in our late teens/early 20s, at the point when many women are just getting started on their careers or their education, and by the time we’re 35, their chances of getting pregnant naturally are less than 15% each month. One of the major benefits of egg freezing is that it freezes a woman’s eggs in time and health so she can use those eggs to get pregnant later, allowing women to sync their fertility timeline a little closer to the timeline they actually live.
Benefits of egg freezing you need to know
- Egg freezing allows women’s biology to better match the way they actually live. It allows women’s fertility to “catch up” to our modern lives.
- Egg freezing can help reduce “fertility anxiety”. One of the benefits of egg freezing we hear most from patients is the sense of relief or relaxation they feel afterward. Because our biology doesn’t exactly follow our preferred timeline, some women feel “fertility anxiety”—the feeling that their fertility is declining, but they’re not in the right place to have a baby right now.
Psychotherapist Lisa Schuman says that, according to her research and experience, egg freezing benefits mental health for many women by relieving that anxiety. “Egg freezing may provide some peace of mind and relief from self-recrimination,” Schuman wrote in a post on our blog. Women can be self-critical, she says, blaming themselves for “not conceiving or marrying sooner.” Egg freezing can “alleviate this pressure” and let women feel “less anxious about their biological clock.” Indeed, reducing pressure and anxiety is a benefit of egg freezing often listed by our own patients. The way egg freezing allows women to make more clear-headed decisions, free from pressure and anxiety: “Egg freezing allows us to be more ready. I think we’ll start to see people being more deliberate.” One of the major benefits of egg freezing, she writes, “is just a better quality of life.”
- Egg freezing can give you time to find the right partner
Studies show that the majority of women freeze their eggs because they don’t yet have a partner they want to raise children with. Egg freezing could be a great move for single women, because fertility anxiety might actually get in the way of meeting the right person, or pressure women to
“It’s tough for some women to be present and not feel pressured when they’re focused on their fertility. For some women, freezing their eggs may provide a feeling of relief that they can focus on their date, without worrying or wondering about making an immediate match because of their biological clocks.” The largest benefit of egg freezing is that women no longer need to rush into find a committed partner and feel a tremendous amount of relationship relaxation.
- Clinically, egg freezing can protect your eggs from disease or preserve them before invasive medical treatments. This is one of the benefits of egg freezing for women with cancer, endometriosis, or other illnesses that might affect their eggs, ovaries, or reproductive systems.
Egg freezing was initially developed to help women with cancer preserve fertility because some cancer treatments can put a woman’s fertility at risk. For example, chemotherapy and radiation treatments can inadvertently damage or destroy the eggs in a woman’s ovaries along with the cancer. Surgery to remove tumors or the affected ovary (or ovaries), uterus, or Fallopian tubes can also make it more difficult or impossible for a woman to conceive on her own, and pelvic surgery always carries the risk of scarring or damage to the ovaries or reproductive system.
Women with endometriosis also see many benefits of egg freezing. Endometriosis creates scar tissue in the reproductive system that can impede fertility, and may also decrease egg quality as it creates an inflammatory environment in the reproductive system. Additionally, many treatments that alleviate the symptoms of endometriosis, such as surgery, can affect the ovaries and reduce ovarian reserve (the number of eggs remaining in the ovary).
One of the major benefits of egg freezing is that undergoing the process before cancer or endometriosis treatment, or early on in the progression of endometriosis, can give women the opportunity to start a family when they are healthy again, and more options for the future
The benefits of egg freezing are the same, no matter the reason