Freezing Your Eggs
Because of work and other reasons, women are often delaying childbearing until their 30s and 40s. The technology of egg freezing has also improved dramatically in the last 5-10 years. The possibility of freezing eggs is a game-changer for a lot of women. However, there are some important things to know about egg freezing before considering this step.
As a woman, you are born with all the eggs you will ever have – approximately 1 million. By the time you hit puberty, this number has dropped to about 500,000 – and down to approximately 20,000 by the late 30s. This may seem like a high number of eggs. However, the challenge is that as we age, our eggs age as well. It is estimated that the vast majority of a woman’s eggs are abnormal (incapable of making a normal baby) by her late 30s.
If you are interested in the possibility of egg freezing, some initial steps would be meeting with a fertility specialist and checking your egg count – what we call ‘ovarian reserve’. This can be done pretty easily with bloodwork or ultrasound. Your doctor will also consider your age when discussing the results and chances for success.
The most common blood test that is used to check ovarian reserve is the antimullerian hormone test (AMH). It can be done on any day of the menstrual cycle – and even while on birth control or during pregnancy. This hormone is released from the ovaries and is higher when there are a lot of eggs – and lower when there are few eggs remaining. It is important again to note that this test can only describe the number of eggs remaining and not the quality (which is more age-dependent).
After initial testing, a patient who has decided on egg freezing will typically undergo a 2-week regimen of injectable hormones to ripen multiple eggs in the ovaries. Monitoring will be done every few days with bloodwork and ultrasound. At the end of the process, the eggs will be removed during a quick (15 minute) procedure under anesthesia. Any ripe eggs then are frozen and stored until the patient is ready to use them.
It is important to understand that egg freezing can dramatically improve your chances of having a child with your eggs when you are ready. However, it cannot be a guarantee. The success of the process depends on having good quality eggs frozen at a clinic which is skilled in the process. A patient who has few eggs or who is older will have a lower success rate. As well, egg freezing itself is a delicate process. Eggs frozen at a high-quality lab will have a different outcome than if they are frozen at a lab that does not have much experience with freezing and thawing eggs.
Should you consider freezing your eggs? If you are in your 20s or 30s and have the desire to preserve your fertility, egg freezing can maximize your choices. If you are in your 40s, your odds of success with egg freezing is going to be low; however, it is important to talk with a fertility specialist about your scenario.
Early ovarian testing and a discussion with a fertility specialist is key to maximizing your chances of having the family of your dreams when you are ready.
Fertility Expert Natalie Burger, MD | Texas Fertility Center
A native of Marietta, Georgia, Dr. Burger received her undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a minor in Mathematics. She attended medical school at Medical College of Georgia and completed her residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Vermont. She also received her fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Vermont.
Dr. Burger is Board Certified in both Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility. She has special interests in hysteroscopic surgery, ovulation induction, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and recurrent pregnancy loss. She is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology. She is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas/Southwestern. She has been voted as one of America’s Top Obstetricians and Gynecologists for multiple years and as one of the Best Doctor’s in America recently.
In 2011, Dr. Burger was the program director for The Southwest Fertility Forum, which is a conference designed to provide reproductive endocrinologists, embryologists, IVF lab professionals, obgyns and nursing providers with information on the latest clinical and laboratory advances in reproductive medicine and infertility.