Egg Freezing: A Rising Trend Among Young Female Professionals

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Oocyte cryopreservation, more commonly known as egg freezing, is a relatively new procedure that enables women to preserve their eggs for potential use in the future. The eggs are first harvested from the ovaries, then frozen and stored.

Egg freezing is said to remove some of the pressure that young women face -- you can focus on furthering your education and building your career. You can also travel, start a business and live life on your own terms. Better, it buys you a little more time to find the right partner.

However, there are also downsides to the procedure. Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of human egg freezing.

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Better chances of having a healthy pregnancy

The quality of a woman’s eggs deteriorates as she ages. Studies have shown that a woman's fertility peaks in her late twenties and starts to decline as she approaches her mid-thirties. After the age of 35, her fertility begins to diminish at a more rapid rate.

This is one of the reasons why women who get pregnant later in life are more likely to have problems. A woman's chance of having a child born with a serious medical condition also increases as she gets older. With oocyte cryopreservation, should you wait until later in life to conceive, you’ll have a far better chance of having a healthy birth, since your eggs remain the same age after they’ve been harvested and frozen.

Theoretically, you can still have a perfectly healthy pregnancy at age 47 if you use the eggs you harvested when you were 25.

In fact, egg freezing was first developed to make it possible for women who’ve gone through cancer treatments to conceive. Radiation and chemotherapy can destroy a woman's eggs. Life is unpredictable, and you never know what type of health problems you may develop in the future. Egg freezing makes it possible for you to conceive even if you have health problems.

It comes at a price

Egg freezing is not a cheap process. The costs vary, but expect to pay $500 to $1,000 a year just to store your eggs. That comes to $5,000 to $10,000 over a 10-year period. Plus, you will also have to pay a minimum $3,500 to $5,000 for IVF, and quite possibly more than that depending on your location. Further, many people who go the IVF route will need more than one round.

Another thing to consider is if oocyte cryopreservation is really necessary. While freezing your eggs in your early twenties will no doubt result in preserving a large number of high-quality specimens, for most women it's difficult if not impossible at this age to determine if she'll ever need them. It's still perfectly feasible, and statistically more likely, that she'll conceive naturally somewhere down the road.

Plus, the longer frozen eggs are stored, the more expensive cryopreservation becomes. All tolled, it can work out to be as expensive as buying a new car.

You may not even use your eggs

Women freeze their eggs as insurance in case they’ll need them in the future. However, the vast majority of them never actually use these eggs, with some studies reporting the figure being as low as 6 percent.

So the odds are that you could very well end up going through the entire procedure and spend thousands of dollars for nothing but the peace of mind of having frozen eggs available if you ever need them - although this is an important factor that shouldn’t be entirely discounted either.

Another thing to consider is the wisest age to pursue oocyte cryopreservation. While freezing your eggs in your early twenties will no doubt result in preserving a large number of high-quality specimens, for most women it's difficult if not impossible at this age to determine if she'll ever need them. It's still perfectly feasible, and statistically more likely, that she'll conceive naturally somewhere down the road. Plus, the longer frozen eggs are stored, the more expensive cryopreservation becomes.

Pregnancy isn’t guaranteed

Most importantly, egg freezing does not guarantee you will be able to conceive in the future. Your partner's sperm quality also affects your chances of conception. By some estimates fewer than 10% of frozen egg implantations actually result in live births, bringing into question just how effective the procedure is.

However, since elective egg freezing is a relatively new procedure, it’s entirely possible many women just aren’t ready to use their frozen eggs yet, and success rates will rise over time.

Deciding to freeze one’s eggs can be an empowering choice for many women, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, nor should it be seen as a foolproof safety net. Egg freezing is a promising technology offering insurance for women concerned they may not meet a suitable partner until they’re older, or who may ultimately decide to become single mothers somewhere down the road. These are options that haven’t been available to any other generation of women throughout history.

The success rate of egg freezing and similar procedures is only going to improve. So while the risk of wasting your money is a little greater now than is ideal, 10 or 15 years down the road, when you may wish to actually use your frozen eggs or embryos, you can be confident the procedures will have advanced substantially, improving the odds of your having a successful live birth by a considerable margin.

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