Should You Freeze Your Eggs for a Future Baby?

Thoughtful Woman Looking Away The headlines dazzle like sunbursts on a glacier: SINGLE CAREER WOMEN FREEZE EGGS FOR FUTURE CONCEPTIONS. An improved freezing method, called vitrification, has resulted in more live births than freezing by any older method. Perhaps you are considering egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, in hopes that when the time is right in terms of career, savings, and relationship, your younger, preserved eggs will work better than your fresh eggs.

You may be under even greater pressure than that imposed by the typical biological clock if you have cancer and are about to start radiation, chemotherapy, or both, or if you have a family history of early menopause.

Like all new fertility techniques, egg freezing brings not only new options but also tough decisions that previous generations of women never had to face.

Be a cautious consumer. Before you spend or borrow a ton of money—insurance typically doesn’t cover the procedure—you might ask, “How likely is this procedure to yield an actual baby, and at what cost to my wallet, body, and mind?” Another crucial question: “How can I best prepare for motherhood and handle my baby cravings while I am waiting impatiently for the ‘right’ time?”

Take care of your psychological well-being before you look at the logistics of this decision. It may help to acknowledge to yourself and to a loved one or therapist how disappointed you are to have arrived at this point in your life without a baby. You may even have had a timeline such as “married by 28, first child by 30, second by 32.” Even if you eventually wind up with your dream, albeit at a slower pace, this delay can hurt, especially if your sisters and/or friends are completing and enjoying their families.

Here are some guidelines for talking to your OB-GYN, an infertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist), your partner, family, friends, or psychotherapist. Try to talk to at least one physician who doesn’t do the procedure and therefore has an extra measure of objectivity.

Before you head to a clinic, consider the facts:

  • There will be wear and tear on your body, and maybe time off from work. You will undergo fertility tests to see if you are a candidate for the procedure. If you are and you decide to go forward, you will give yourself hormone shots at home and visit your clinics to monitor your developing egg follicles to see whether or when they can be harvested. Next comes an outpatient egg retrieval process, which doesn’t involve surgery but does require light anesthesia. Once your eggs are retrieved, they will be frozen and stored until you are ready to use them.
  • It’s not cheap. If you are a cancer patient, health insurance and/or foundation money may pay some of your costs. Otherwise, you will pay out of pocket, typically between $8,000 and $18,000, not counting yearly storage fees—generally several hundred dollars per year.
  • When you’re ready to try for a baby, there will be additional costs. Unless you get pregnant on your own with fresh eggs (a typical protocol before high-tech intervention), you will fertilize your preserved eggs with your partner’s or a donor’s sperm via in-vitro fertilization (IVF)—creating an embryo (or embryos) in a Petri dish. You will pay for this procedure as well as the costs of thawing the eggs. The embryo(s), if deemed viable by an embryologist, will then be implanted in your uterus. If your insurance doesn’t cover fertility treatment, you would pay out of pocket for these procedures. Even if you have insurance coverage, you might have significant co-pays or age restrictions on your coverage.

Are you bowled over by sticker shock? You are not alone. Speak to your OB-GYN to learn of less expensive ways to protect your fertility. Examples are eating well, cutting back on smoking and drinking, and doing low-tech fertility tests to take stock of your status.

Success Rates, Risks, and Psychological Toll

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), if you are under 38 years old when you freeze your eggs, the chances that a particular egg will yield a baby range from 2% to 12%. Because many eggs are often retrieved, these additional eggs increase your chances. If you are older when you freeze your eggs, your chances may be even lower.

Speak to your OB-GYN or go to ReproductiveFacts.org, the patient education website for ASRM, to learn about the risks of taking hormones and other aspects of treatment. A doctor or other medical practitioner can help you weigh the risks and benefits.

Giving yourself shots can be stressful. Hormones can wreak havoc on your emotions, and you will ride a roller coaster of hope and disappointment. Your cycle could be canceled for medical reasons, or few or nonviable eggs might be retrieved. You will need support from family or friends.

Of course, if you are undergoing this procedure because you are about to lose your fertility to cancer, your emotional burden and need for support is even greater. Emotional resilience and good support from your fertility program and loved ones will be greatly helpful.

Are You an Ideal Candidate?

This technique may make sense for you if you:

  1. Have a compelling medical reason, such as being about to begin cancer treatment, or if you anticipate early menopause (premature ovarian failure).
  2. Received encouraging news about your egg quality in your initial fertility evaluation.
  3. Are fortunate enough to have money available—yours or your family’s—so that you will not go into debt or be financially devastated.
  4. Are realistic about outcomes, knowing that you receive no guarantees.

If you do freeze your eggs, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. You and your partner should still try for pregnancy as soon as you are ready.

Other Considerations

Considering having a baby may raise thorny questions about careers, relationship commitment, and finances. If you’re in a relationship and your heart is telling you that a baby is your highest priority, dare to ask the question. Even if you decide not to speed up the planning, you may discover what you need to change psychologically and practically before you are truly ready. And you and your partner may find yourselves having the richest, deepest conversations you’ve ever had.

Even if you are lucky enough to afford the technique, you might prefer to save the money for future fertility techniques with higher success rates. Or you might want the money later to extend your maternity leave or to pay for an alternative, such as a donor egg or adoption.

Don’t let statistics destroy your hopes. Numbers aren’t crystal balls. You could get pregnant on your honeymoon at 43, or you could freeze eggs at 41 that lead to your beloved newborn when you’re 45.

Even if you freeze some eggs, you might later discover you didn’t need them. For example, when you’re ready, you might get pregnant during good, old-fashioned lovemaking or a procedure using your own fresh eggs.

Consider, also, that although you might not have a baby with your genes, you may be able to enjoy a child via a donated egg, surrogacy, or adoption. Although you may hope to never have to use them, these alternative paths have turned out to be very satisfying for many families.

Actions You Can Take While Waiting for the Right Time

  • Meet your need for nurture. Consider getting a puppy or kitten. Babysit your niece or volunteer. Hug and cuddle with your partner, family, and friends.
  • Learn about parenting. Read books, observe friends raising young children, and talk to them about their experiences. Hang out with families and play with the children or babysit them.
  • Take stock. What does mothering mean to you? At what point in your life would it be reasonable to start trying—medically and logistically? Is there a point at which the scale will tip toward baby as highest priority even if it means facing career obstacles or being a single mother?
  • If you’re in a relationship, ask your partner to do his/her own soul searching. Even if your partner wants to postpone parenting or remain permanently child-free, it’s better for partners to come to their own conclusions before negotiating with you, if you happen to disagree.
  • Talk to each other. Who are you as individuals and as a couple? Does becoming a parent seem like the next logical step for your growth and expansion? What else matters to each of you and to both of you that still hasn’t happened in your life? Could you do some of these things now, taking advantage of your freedom before you are tied down with a child?

Dealing with these questions now, even if the answers change later, gives you a foundation for going forward.

Helpful Resources

  • Resolve.org
  • ResolveNewEngland.org
  • ReproductiveFacts.org
  • SaveMyFertility.org

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Merle Ann Bombardieri, MSW, LICSW, ACHP-SW, therapist in Lexington, Massachusetts

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 8 comments
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  • Izzy

    October 2nd, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    I have always sort of been the kind of person who believes that if something is meant to happen then it will.

    That might mean that eventually I will choose to freeze my eggs or it might mean that I get pregnant on my own or it could even mean that I won’t have children at all. Not all up to me if you knwo what I mean. There are certain things that I have some control over but even if I go through the vitrification process that is still not guarantee than I will become a mama. There are other methods to pursue of I decide that I wnat to be a mom but am bilogically unable. I am ok with that because if it is meant to happen, then it will.

  • colton

    October 2nd, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    If you have the financial means and are in good enough health, then why not?
    It isn’t like anyone is saying that you eventually have to go back and try for a baby, but this might give you an option that you may not have otherwise if you do nothing.

  • Jaz D

    October 3rd, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with taking this step if it doesn’t do anything to harm you or the future baby. Who would ever disagree that this along with any other women’s health issue is and should always remain a woman’s choice?

  • Emme

    October 3rd, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    So many issues to consider here. You really have to think about do you want a child or do you want one because it seems like something that eventually you have to do to be complete? If that’s it then I would say go see a therapist first because nothing, not even a child is ever going to help you feel complete unless you already feel good about yourself to begin with. I would also consider whether this si something that is financially doable for you ebcause I think that this is a pretty expensive process and needless to say I would be shocked if insurance covered the procedure.

  • pres

    October 4th, 2014 at 4:55 AM

    There are lots of different options available to you even if egg freezing isn’t in the cards for you.
    Fostering is a great way to take care of that mothering instinct while also helping provide care for children who are not receiving that at home. It may also be a way for you to adopt a child later on if that is what you decide that you should do.
    I think that fostering sometimes gets a bad rap because of the whole DSS system that you have to work within, but if you have the best interest of the children at heart then this could be an awesome opportunity for you to make a real difference in some child’s life.

  • Merle Bombardieri

    Merle Bombardieri

    October 4th, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    Thank you all for your comments. They all are very thoughtful and heartfelt. You speak for the many perspectives women have on motherhood, from questioning whether motherhood makes sense for you at all, how important it is to different women to have a child who shares your and your partner’s genes. For many women, adoption, foster care, donor egg, donor insemination or surrogacy are wonderful paths.

    To Colton and Jaz D., I did not mean to suggest that all women would be making a mistake to freeze their eggs. It is good that this method is available. I just think it’s important to understand that the success rates aren’t great, and that even though the babies born so far from frozen eggs have no higher rate of birth defects then babies conceived in other ways, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine cautions that we don’t have enough data yet to be sure that these babies will be healthy. The Society says that it cannot recommend, at this point in the technology,egg freezing for the purpose of fertility preservation. It clearly can make sense for those embarking on chemotherapy or radiation. This method at least gives them a chance at a biological child. As success rates improve, as we become more confident in the children’s health, this approach will become a reasonable path for more women. I agree that women have a right to make their own decisions about their bodies and their fertility. I am just trying to educate you about the pros and cons.

    I welcome any comments that you and other readers would like to offer. Come join the conversation!

    Thanks again for your intersting and impassioned comments.

  • Daniela

    October 6th, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    If I had the $$$ then I would do this in a heartbeat!!
    Who is to say that between the rip reproductive ages of 20 and 40 I will want a baby, or that I will even be with someone who will share that dream with me?
    What if I am alone at 50 and decide that I can do this on my own and that I am at a point where I can? I should have the opportunity to do it and I think that freezing my eggs ahead of time would be a amart idea.
    It might not ever come down to that but it could and I would wnat to know that there would always be a way to have a child of my own even if it wasn’t in a way that other people would say is a traditional method.

  • stressedout

    October 8th, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Nothing has gone the way in life that I had envisioned that it would and I am starting to wonder if this could be the right choice for me. I am not married but have a great career but would never want to feel like I had to give that up to get the family that I want too. Why does it always have to feel like I can have one thing but not the other, or like I haev to choice between the life that I thought that I wanted and the life that I actually have?

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