A Female Fertility Age Question: Do The Eggs Expire?
Picture this: You’re working on your career, going to school, becoming an independent woman, you know, just doing your thing, and all of a sudden you wake up and you’re 35. No kids, no husband, no idea where the time went. Now what? How can you help secure your reproductive future?
The answer, if you hadn’t already guessed it, can be freezing your eggs (also known as vitrification). What this means, is having an infertility specialist assess your baseline reproductive health (usually done with labs and ultrasounds), and then help you stimulate your ovaries and produce some eggs. Those eggs are then extracted from the ovaries (not as torture chamber as it sounds), sent to a lab and basically, frozen until further notice. Normally, a woman will release one oocyte (egg) per month. Either you get pregnant, or you have a period. With this process, a women can release up to 20 eggs in one cycle. As women, we are born with all of the eggs we will get in a lifetime. Unlike men who make new sperm every day. This is why our clock starts to tick once we hit 30, and especially 37.
So why isn’t everyone doing this? There are some downsides to consider. First of all, this is a fairly expensive procedure. The majority, if not all, of the cost is out of pocket. This can be approximately 10-15 thousand dollars per round or cycle that is needed. Also, the technology has come a long way in the last 5 years, but it isn’t perfect. Success rates vary depending on the institution. Success rates also decline once it’s time to unfreeze the goods and create embryos.
Another thing to keep in mind is this is a hormone intense experience. This means the patient herself is injecting herself with hormone shots to stimulate the ovaries. This also means no drinking alcohol, feeling bloated and emotional, and the rare risk of something called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS is a condition where the estrogen becomes so high, a woman is at risk for developing blood clots in her veins, ovarian twisting (torsion) and breathing difficulty. Someone with this condition needs to stay on bed rest until the hormone level normalizes, and may need to be hospitalized.
Wait! Don’t cancel your fertility appointment just yet! Women who do freeze their eggs feel a tremendous sense of relief from the pressure of reproduction. No longer is the clock ticking away so fast. No longer is every guy you see a potential sperm donor. No longer do you have to weigh choosing career/ travel/ finding yourself, over having children. It can be a wonderful insurance policy that really takes a burden off. It isn’t cheap, and it is a bit labor intensive, but once it is done, you can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Another benefit of doing the initial fertility work up is that it tests your baseline fertility. There are enough surprises in life! This is one aspect of life that we, as women, would like to be more aware of.
Sometimes life doesn’t go as we planned. Luckily with science and technology, as well as a little modern medicine we can continue to insure things will still work out in our favor. All it takes is for you to ask your OBGYN provider to refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist for a consult. Answers will come after you start asking the right questions.