Egg freezing is a hot topic these days, on the minds of many young women who are currently busy building their careers and living their lives but still hope to have children one day.
But every woman has questions. Here are the basics you need to know, including when is the right time to freeze your eggs, how to prepare for the process, and more.
Should I freeze my eggs?
Fertility is a precious resource, limited to just a few years of your life. A woman is most fertile from about age 18 to 29. Over age 30, her fertility progressively declines, and this decline accelerates in her late 30s and early 40s. In fact, spontaneous conception—without the help of assisted reproductive technology—is quite rare over age 43.
When should I freeze my eggs?
When deciding the right age to freeze your eggs, it's important to consider factors such as your relationship status, education and career plans along with the age-related decline in fertility rates.
In your 20s. A large number of high quality eggs are found in a woman's mid-20s. A 25-year-old produces an average of about 6 healthy embryos per cycle out of 12–18 eggs.
In your 30s. The eggs of women in their early- to mid-30s produce progressively fewer healthy embryos. Between ages 30–35, women produce an average of 3 healthy embryos. Between ages 38–40, they produce 1 healthy embryo on average.
In your 40s. At this age, less than one healthy embryo is found per cycle.
How do I prepare for egg freezing?
If you've decided to freeze your eggs, the first step in the process is a consultation with a fertility specialist. At Pacific Fertility Center, all our physicians are board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Tests. To assess your reproductive potential, your physician will use fertility tests such as an antral follicle count (AFC) and a blood test for anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH). These tests help determine how many eggs remain in the ovaries' small sacs (follicles).
Age is the best predictor of egg quality.
What is the process?
Fertility medications. The first step in the egg-freezing process is to generate multiple eggs for retrieval. Your physician will prescribe fertility medications to stimulate follicle growth and produce multiple eggs. Using a very fine needle, you inject these medications just beneath the skin. This phase of treatment lasts about 10 days.
Ultrasound monitoring and lab tests. A physician will monitor you on a regular basis to assess follicle growth and the number of eggs being produced. When follicles are mature and ready for retrieval, you stop taking the fertility medication, and take an ovulation trigger, a hormone that brings on the final phase of egg maturation. Egg retrieval is scheduled 36 hours after the trigger.
Egg retrieval procedure. During this painless and relatively brief procedure (10-15 minutes), your doctor uses ultrasound guidance to gently retrieve eggs from the ovarian follicles. You will be under sedation and in the care of an anesthesiologist throughout the procedure. After the retrieval, take it easy the rest of the day. We also require someone drive you home after the retrieval as you are not able to drive yourself due to the sedation medication. You may resume normal activity the following day.
Egg preservation. We preserve the retrieved eggs through a rapid freezing process called vitrification. Eggs remain frozen until you need them.// Learn more about egg freezing and get your questions answered at Pacific Fertility Center's free egg freezing webinar on Wednesday, July 25th; pacificfertilitycenter.com.