Egg Freezing Myths vs. Realities
The quality of a woman’s eggs decreases over time. By retrieving and preserving eggs, a woman who wants or needs to wait to have kids can give herself a better chance of getting pregnant when she’s ready.
Though the popularity of egg freezing has increased dramatically, it’s often misunderstood. We wanted to address some of the common misconceptions people have about egg freezing. Celmatix has teamed up with Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a Harvard-educated, board-certified OB-GYN specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, to help us out. Known as the “Egg Whisperer,” Dr. Aimee works tirelessly to educate women about their fertility and what they can do to make sure they’ll be able to have kids when they want to.
Myth #1: “I can wait to learn about my fertility until I start trying to get pregnant.”
Reality: Not only is it possible to learn about your fertility earlier on, it’s really important. You can learn a lot from your hormone levels, and new genetic testsoffer important insight into your reproductive health and fertility potential.
I recommend women start getting their hormone levels checked by their OB-GYN when they’re about 25. Understanding what your hormones might be saying about your fertility could lead you to start trying sooner, or to freeze your eggs to make it easier to get pregnant with treatment later on. But even if your hormone levels are good, your egg quality still declines over time. Many women wait until this decline is obvious before freezing their eggs, but if you act sooner you can preserve higher quality eggs, giving you your best shot at having kids when you want to.
The Fertilome genetic test provides another way to learn about your fertility potential before you try to get pregnant. The test looks for genetic risk factors that are related to your fertility, so your results could tell you something about your ability to get pregnant in the future.
Myth #2: “I don’t need to freeze my eggs. I can always do IVF.”
Reality: IVF can’t turn unhealthy eggs or sperm into healthy ones, and it can’t grow more eggs than you already have.
IVF isn’t a replacement for fertility preservation. You preserve your eggs precisely so that you’ll have a better chance of getting pregnant with IVF later on.
The success of IVF treatment depends on the fertilization of healthy eggs, and younger eggs are, on average, healthier eggs. The more healthy eggs you have when going through IVF, the greater your chances of ending up with healthy embryos for implantation.
Myth #3: “Each egg I freeze is a guarantee for future pregnancy.”
Reality: Each egg you freeze is a chance for future pregnancy.
No fertility treatment guarantees success, and no good fertility specialist guarantees results. After retrieving your eggs, your doctor can assess them, but she can’t tell you if they’re 100% viable. An egg has to be fertilized and grow into an embryo before you can know that.
A 37-year-old woman might need six eggs to get one healthy embryo, while a 40-year-old woman might need 20. This uncertainty is exactly why fertility preservation can make such a huge difference to treatment. It’s all about giving yourself the best chance you can.
Myth #4: “Egg freezing can cause early menopause.”
Reality: Egg freezing has no impact on menopause.
Because egg freezing involves extracting eggs from your uterus, some people think it makes you “lose” eggs faster, which might speed up the egg depletion that happens during menopause.
The reality is that women lose eggs every month. At the start of your cycle, a number of antral follicles (the precursors to eggs) start their journey to becoming eggs. In a normal cycle, only one makes it and the rest are lost. In an egg freezing cycle, medication helps many more of them go all the way. All those developed eggs are then removed and frozen for later use. This has no known impact on the timing of your overall egg depletion.
Myth #5: “Egg freezing increases my cancer risk.”
Reality: Fertility treatment does not increase your cancer risk.
Multiple studies have shown no definitive correlation between the medications used during an egg retrieval cycle and increased risk of cancer. But if you’re worried about your cancer risk, or if you have a family history of cancer, you should definitely talk to your doctor. There are many tests that can tell you if you have genetic markers that are associated with different kinds of cancer. If you take these tests and learn that you’re at increased risk, it could impact the way you plan for the family you want to have someday.
Myth #6: “Fertility is just about my body. Mental health doesn’t enter into it.”
Reality: It’s important that you’re emotionally prepared for fertility testing and treatments.
You’re going to have a stronger emotional reaction to the results of a fertility hormone check than you would to the results of a cholesterol check, and understandably so. The ability to have a family is important to many people, and for women that ability is often (and unfairly) tied up with all sorts of ideas about femininity, fitness, and expectations for the future.
Preparing emotionally also means considering things you’ve never thought of before. Before egg freezing in particular, I recommend women consider seeing a fertility preservation psychologist to help them think through the implications. A good psychologist will guide you through questions like “Where will the eggs go if something happens to me?” or “What will I do if I end up not needing them?”
Myth #7: “If I’ve frozen my eggs, my partner’s sperm health doesn’t matter.”
Reality: Female biology is more than half of the equation, but sperm health plays a big role.
Before you thaw your eggs to use for IVF, your reproductive endocrinologist should analyze your partner’s sperm for count and quality. The outcome of this analysis could have a big impact on your treatment plan.
Myth #8: “Egg freezing doesn’t work if you don’t do it when you’re young.”
Reality: Even if you’re already in your thirties, freezing your eggs might still increase your chances of getting pregnant. It could be especially important if you want to have a big family.
Because fertility and egg health decline as you age, it’s statistically ideal to freeze your eggs when they are most likely to be healthy. However, fertility treatment is not about absolutes, it’s about knowing your odds and trying to increase them. Whether or not egg freezing is right for you depends on your health, goals, finances, and many other factors that require careful thought.
This piece is contributed by Celmatix. Founded in 2009, Celmatix is a personalized medicine company focused on fertility and women’s health. Their technology-enabled products empower people, through better data, to dramatically improve their chances of conceiving.