Is egg freezing the answer?
Like dueling banjos, the beat goes on in reproductive medicine regarding women having babies later in life and egg freezing as an option for postponing childbearing.
But how do the two connect? And how don’t they?
I’ve always said egg freezing is one of the most innovative technologies available to my patients. And while it certainly can ‘buy’ some time, particularly in the cases of fertility preservation prior to chemotherapy, which can affect the quantity and quality of eggs, egg freezing should not be used as a ‘blank check’ to delay childbirth.
Using eggs frozen at a young age gives women a greater chance to conceive later in life, when they might not be able to get pregnant otherwise. However, the risks of pregnancy still increase with age. The chances to have pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and some other serious medical complications of pregnancy all go up whether through natural birth or frozen eggs.
Another issue is that if pregnancy is not achieved from previously frozen eggs, a woman reaches an age where no more eggs will be available. To address this, I recommend freezing about 10 mature eggs to have a fair chance of having a child, and about 20 mature eggs if the plan is to have 2 kids. However, there are individual differences – and for some women, that number may not be sufficient.
I tell my patients that ideally, eggs that are frozen for social reasons, such as professional or personal issues, should be used as soon as the situation allows. Freezing eggs is not intended to enable a lengthy delay in determining the right time to conceive, but rather to be used as soon as a woman’s social situation allows for a baby.
Egg freezing CAN be the answer to bridging the gap of necessary medical treatment that can reduce the quality or quantity of eggs, or as a short-term stopgap for personal or professional reasons.
But remember, there is never an ‘ideal’ time when one is entirely ‘ready’ to have a baby. And while egg freezing can buy some time, it’s important that period is finite in the eyes of the potential parent, despite what technology may have to offer.
About the Author
Dr. Elena Trukhacheva, MSCI, is one of the field’s devoted female reproductive endocrinologists, who demonstrates a unique rapport and understanding of her patients. As a woman and a mother, she takes pride in providing comprehensive care and strives to bring hope and support to her patients. Dr. Trukhacheva is Board Certified in the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology and in the sub-specialty of reproductive endocrinology and infertility. She is a part of the Reproductive Medicine Institute Chicago: www.teamrmi.com.