We deserve it all, ladies: a lucrative career, the perfect guy, and two and a half kids by the time we hit age 30. But let’s face it, life doesn’t always go as planned. If Mr. Right has yet to knock, your career path delayed having children, or maybe timing just hasn’t been right, there are fertility preservations options that may soften the blow. Recent advances in technology have given women more control than ever to create their own path when it comes to building their families and achieving life’s goals.
The physicians at Utah Fertility Center know that the number one factor affecting women’s ability to have children as we age relates to our eggs. At birth, women have all the eggs they will ever have, as opposed to men who can produce fresh sperm throughout their lives. Starting at puberty, eggs are released monthly, which slowly depletes our egg pool. Even in the healthiest of women, the DNA in our eggs get ‘sticky’ as we get older, affecting our ability to create genetically healthy embryos which can lead to a higher chance of genetic issues like Down’s syndrome in our offspring as we age. So overall, the number and quality of our eggs decline over time.
Fertility Preservation was initially developed for women of reproductive age with cancer or other diseases undergoing life-saving procedures like chemotherapy, which can cause irrevocable damage to egg reserve. Egg freezing or embryo freezing, are the two most commonly used fertility preservation options for women. If used safely, this can be a great way for some women undergoing cancer treatment to preserve their fertility for later in life when they are ready to focus on family building. Now that the technology has improved and many companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google cover the cost of egg freezing for their employees, social fertility preservation, specifically egg freezing, has become a more mainstream option that is growing in popularity.
Retrieving eggs for egg freezing requires the same hormone-injection process as in-vitro fertilization. This involves an approximately 10-day course of injectable hormones, along with periodic pelvic ultrasounds and bloodwork to monitor response to the medication. The eggs are then retrieved during a brief procedure with ultrasound guidance, under mild sedation. Healthy eggs are then ‘vitrified’ or frozen in our lab and can be stored indefinitely for future use. For the highest chance of achieving a successful pregnancy, it is optimal to freeze 10-20 eggs. More than one round of egg ‘banking’ is sometimes necessary to retrieve an ideal number of eggs for future use.
It’s best to pursue egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation during a woman’s prime reproductive years: 20’s to mid-’30s. After 35, a women’s reproductive potential will slowly decline over time. All women are unique, however, so some women’s reproductive ‘aging’ will happen faster than others. Fertility screening is done at any fertility preservation consultation, which is a reflection of each woman’s unique egg reserve. This screening involves a simple pelvic ultrasound, where antral follicles (small growing eggs) within each ovary are counted, and egg reserve blood work is obtained. These measures are valuable indicators of egg reserve, and can also predict how many eggs may be retrieved during one round of egg freezing.
Egg freezing is certainly not a guarantee that pregnancy will be achieved at some point down the road. There are a lot of factors that contribute to overall success when using eggs or even frozen embryos, down the road. The hope is that fertility preservation at a younger age will provide a better opportunity to achieve the goal of a healthy baby when the time is right.
The best place to seek egg freezing is with a fertility center that has plenty of experience with the egg freezing procedure. Our fertility center does a high number of egg freezing cycles at approximately 10 – 15 per month and has had excellent success with egg survival during the warming process, and with pregnancy rates, once the eggs are used. When considering where to go for fertility preservation, ask for success rates from that center’s own freezing statistics. Information on national success rates and specific clinic success rates can also be found on www.sart.org.
The odds of frozen eggs leading to a conception later in life is always the million-dollar question. A consultation with a fertility specialist should help to set realistic goals. Age, ovarian reserve testing and a thorough consultation, will provide valuable information to help to make an informed decision about whether and how to move forward with fertility preservation.
To schedule a consultation with a physician in our St. George, Pleasant Grove, Murray, and Ogden, Utah offices, please call us at 801-785-5100 or complete a consultation request form.