Should I freeze my eggs?
February 1, 2016 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm 33, single and want to have kids one day. Is freezing my eggs something I should be doing?

I have no reason to think I have any fertility issues whatsoever, but I'm also not getting any younger. I've never been *too* concerned about my fertility because from everything I've been told I come from a very fertile family. As in I've been warned by my mother and aunts that they all got pregnant the first time they had sex without birth control. Some issues with miscarriages, but not with getting pregnant. One of my aunts even got pregnant by accident when she was 36 or 37. I haven't drilled all of them on when they went into menopause, but I believe it was at a normal age. I have a cousin who bizarrely had one of her ovaries explode (she's ok although it was scary at the time) and went on to get pregnant no problem.

However, except for my aunt, all of these pregnancies were under the age of 35. No one has ever had any fertility issues, but no one was trying to have kids later in life either.

I'm not in any rush to have children at all. It's also a lot of money for something that only kind of sort of seems to work. I could afford it, but it would be a big hit and mean dipping into my retirement. Injecting my body with masses of hormones is *not* my idea of a good time (I don't even like to use hormonal birth control).

I don't want to do something rash to my body and my bank account out of fear. Especially after seeing friend after friend, my age and several years older, get pregnant no problem after being similarly concerned about their "advanced maternal age."

However, I'm also very single after a recent breakup and haven't had a lot of luck in love over the past 5 years. While I would love it to happen, I don't see myself getting married and trying to get pregnant in the next 2-3 years. Even if I met someone tomorrow, I wouldn't seriously be considering trying to get pregnant until I was 35 or 36.

So all that being said, is freezing my eggs something I should be seriously considering? Is the technology even good enough to really make the return on investment worth it?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Go to a specialist and get a fertility workup. None of the other stuff - age, when family members had kids, marital status, "fertile family" matters as much as what is happening in your body right now.

Personally I think it is a great idea and totally worth it. But there are a LOT of steps to it, and the workup is the first one, and will either be covered by your insurance or not a huge investment. Just do that one thing and then go from there.

Do it now, call tomorrow.
posted by sweetkid at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

What sweetkid said. You should not take this step without a fertility workup and you'll be able to get a benchmark for your current hormone levels and egg supply. Also worth thinking about: the cost of the process is a large portion of the cost of adoption, or of IUI, or of donor eggs.

There are a lot of ways to conceive, to achieve pregnancy, to become a parent or parents. While you're focused on one way (your own pregnancy with your own eggs resulting in a biological child), it is worth really thinking about how you would feel about other options. It may take the pressure off or introduce you to a better strategy for now.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's not a terrible idea. But you could also just get a donor egg from a brilliant, gorgeous 20 year old if it comes down to that!
posted by yarly at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2016

You could be one of those women that get pregnant naturally at 44. You could be one of those women who needed fertility treatment at age 22. The thing is no one will know which one you are except your doctor. Get a work up and go from there.
posted by Jubey at 2:49 PM on February 1, 2016

Definitely talk to a reproductive endocrinologist. Also, note that nothing catastrophic happens on your 35th birthday. Fertility declines in your thirties, but getting pregnant the conventional way at 36 or 37 is quite normal. On the other hand, if you have issues that will affect your fertility, better to find out now.

Looking at egg freezing as one possible route, not all of the eggs you freeze will survive the thawing process. Once you have thawed some out, you will have to use ICSI to fertilize them (which is an expensive procedure in it's own right) and fewer will fertilize and successfully divide than if you started with fresh eggs. Rates of successful implantation go down as you get older too. So yes, when you are older, conceiving naturally will be harder, but conceiving with frozen eggs won't be quite like turning back the clock either.

I'm not trying to talk you out of anything, it's just important to go in with clear expectations of what egg freezing really is and isn't.
posted by antimony at 2:52 PM on February 1, 2016

Just a comment about the fertility work up - I had it done when I was 35 and was told that I was teetering on the edge of infertility. I then got pregnant on the first try at 36 and at 38, and had two perfect babies. So, you never know.

As far as freezing your eggs, personally I would hold off on seriously considering that for another two years or so.
posted by amro at 2:54 PM on February 1, 2016

I heard Robert Winston speak about fertility last year and he is pretty anti-egg freezing because of the lack of evidence of success. This page has a reply from him quoting some of the figures.
posted by paduasoy at 3:31 PM on February 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think there's a cost benefit issue at play here, too. My wife and I had to do IVF something like six or seven times to get our first kid, and then once more to get our second (and third. Thanks, doc. like the expense of the treatments wasn't enough.). Our kids are 3.5 and 15mos and 15mos. Since then we have had three friends do IVF with the assist of chromosomal testing, and each one has gotten pregnant with one implantation of one tested embryo. I seriously think that in five years the success rate for IVF is going to be very high indeed. I'm not sure freezing eggs is necessarily goIng to contribute that much.
posted by OmieWise at 3:35 PM on February 1, 2016

Just a comment about the fertility work up - I had it done when I was 35 and was told that I was teetering on the edge of infertility. I then got pregnant on the first try at 36 and at 38, and had two perfect babies. So, you never know.

It goes the other way too - when I first saw a fertility specialist at age 31 (after my husband and I had failed to conceive for a year), they couldn't find anything wrong with me (or him) at all. Despite that, we required expensive interventions to conceive our one child, and we were unable to conceive again after she was born.
posted by barnoley at 3:35 PM on February 1, 2016

So what I'm saying is, don't completely rely on a fertility workup to determine whether you will be able to conceive easily.
posted by barnoley at 4:12 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

they tell you at the workup that it's not an exact science and you could still get pregnant no problem despite low numbers with natural pregnancy, or you might not use your eggs at all, or it might not work, etc. But just getting the workup is better in my view than the guesswork of talking to family and all the heavy stuff that usually comes with that, unless you have an especially progressive and open minded family.

The doctor might be cool and relaxed about it or could freak you out about getting pregnant ASAP, doctors are different like people are different, but if you're asking AskMe you might as well ask a doctor.
posted by sweetkid at 4:40 PM on February 1, 2016

I would speak to a gynecologist or fertility expert about this. If starting a family looks to be years off, it may just provide some reassurance and peace of mind that you don't have to rush things and you do have a back-up plan.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:55 PM on February 1, 2016

Another thing to consider is "Do I want to have a *baby*?" versus "Do *I* want to have a baby?" A biological child is something that many people would like, and I totally get that. Go see a fertility clinic, by all means. But maybe also look into adoption. If you are going to need expensive treatments to get pregnant, keep in mind that the cost for an adoption is in the same ballpark. That way, if for some reason the treatments don't work, or whatever, you don't feel like you have to leave your dreams of motherhood behind entirely.
posted by ananci at 6:02 PM on February 1, 2016

You're dealing with a big life change so it's understandable that you are reviewing your options. However, chances are you have a lot of time left to have biological children should you so choose. I'd wait at least six months before deciding anything: perhaps freezing your eggs will be exactly what you want to do at that moment or perhaps you'll think something completely different. If you don't even want to take hormonal birth control, chances are you'd be very uncomfortable with this procedure which may be successful but may not be and could even feel traumatic. If you were even 75% sure you wanted to freeze your eggs right now, I'd say go for it! However, you sound hesitant and worried about many other factors, some of which may ease up later. At 34 even, you may find yourself ready and excited to become a single mom by choice right away, you may find a partner you'd like co-parent with after all, you may find you aren't so set on having biological kids after all, etc. Or maybe you'll feel exactly the same way you do now, and that's OK, too!

Seeing fertility specialists now could help you weigh options but could also make you more anxious. As your peer, I'm so tired of the occasional doctor or well-meaning bystander telling me to This makes me angry for a number of reasons but I won't unload them on you. Fortunately, I've found plenty of people on my side who support my waiting even until my late-thirties or early forties, including my GP and my partner. Ultimately, you know what's best for you; it sounds like anxiety is telling you to rush but your head and your gut are telling you to wait at least a bit longer. I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 6:38 PM on February 1, 2016

Echoing the 'get a work up' comment. There is a test they did on me which specifically measured how much time I had left. They were much more interested in my score on this test than in my calendar age. Turned out our fertility issues were on his side and we are in the idea of treatment right now. But it did reassure me to know that there was time to get it all worked out.
posted by JoannaC at 7:57 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just my two cents. I'm 44, very recently divorced and the mother of two amazing children, using ART. If I had to do it all again, I would freeze some embryos. With the soul purpose of getting pregnant soon. But that is me. Get a work up first.... Reasonably consider your health and then make the best decision for you. Be sure you give yourself matter what your final choice is.
posted by pearlybob at 11:46 PM on February 1, 2016

pearlybob, the the ultimate successful pregnancy rates for freezing embryos are much higher than the success rates for freezing unfertilized eggs.
posted by antimony at 9:41 AM on February 2, 2016

antimony, my doctor gave me a slightly more involved answer to the freezing embryos question...which is why OP should go to a doctor.
posted by sweetkid at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2016

The freezing embryos discussion seems to be irrelevant since she doesn't have a partner with whom she is currently wanting to make embryos, and a future partner may not be super excited about a stash of embryos made with donor sperm.

Though since we are on the topic of embryo freezing, our clinic barely does fresh transfers anymore. We had great success with a frozen embryo transfer, as have many of my friends. I greatly appreciated the time to recover from the retrieval before we moved on to the transfer. Based on what the IVF coordinator went over with us, once they moved from slow freezing to vitrification in their lab, they saw much better results.
posted by antimony at 10:38 AM on February 2, 2016

Don't do this without a realistic account of the cost, both to your health and your pocketbook, and how many times high tech reproduction methods fail, leaving you thousands poorer with no child, and possible damage to your health. Harvesting eggs involves hormone shots and surgery, it is neither simple nor painless and the long-term health risks are not known. If possible research this from places that are not trying to sell you anything. Daughter of a friend went through hell trying to have a child by IVF which she and her husband could scarcely afford, ended up with nothing but bills and medical issues. For other people it worked out well, of course, but be sure you get real odds about this before you commit to anything.

Think long and hard about if you really want a child, and if you are willing to change your time frame to consider having one the old-fashioned way, or through artificial insemination if there is no willing male in the picture. Freezing eggs may not guarantee you motherhood in the distant future.

As others have said, get a full fertility workup from a gynecologist who is not trying to sell you on any particular method including freezing eggs, but will give you the real advantages and disadvantages and failure rates of various methods of conception and birth.
posted by mermayd at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2016

I am also 33 and I froze some of my eggs last year. I'm in the UK and I'm guessing it may be more expensive in the states although it's hard to say (you have to do it privately here so it's not free like most health stuff). I personally didn't find the process at all stressful or upsetting, the hormones had no noticeable effect on me at all although it depends on the person. The worst thing about the experience was that I couldn't drink alcohol for several weeks! All in all it was straight forward and not in any way unpleasant. I know that's not your major concern but if you want to ask me anything further then feel free!
posted by pleasegivemehope at 4:35 PM on February 2, 2016

As someone who asked herself this question under similar circumstances at age 33, maybe wait until you've had a breather from the recent breakup to decide....? Give yourself a few months, or even a year and wait and see if you feel differently. The breakup might be messing with your head.

I was in the same boat — newly single at 33, worried about my fertility. Not sure how much time I had to meet someone. I gave myself a deadline to go get checked out after some months....then BOOM: met the guy that week, and canceled my fertility doc appointment. For real. Four years later at age 38 we're happily pregnant, on the very first try.

Everybody's different, but don't let the breakup push this decision for you. You still have some time to figure it out.

Also for comfort — check out Jean Twenge's research on age and fertility. She was the woman who figured out the whole, "fertility declines at 35" thing came from 300 year old data about French women in the 1700s (that was mindlessly repeated over and over) and may not exactly apply to us today.
posted by yearly at 8:38 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

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