When Is It Too Late to Freeze Your Eggs?

When Is It Too Late to Freeze Your Eggs?

If you think you might like to get pregnant in the future, but you aren’t ready to do so right now, you might think about freezing your eggs for future use. A few years ago, Facebook and Apple made headlines by offering an egg-freezing benefit to employees, presumably so they could focus on their careers now and still have a baby later. But the reality is more complicated.

Egg-freezing was originally seen as an experimental technique for people who stood to lose their fertility — women who were about to start cancer treatment, perhaps. It’s a similar process as the one that occurs when a person donates their eggs. But over the last decade or two, it has been marketed as a girlboss move, a thing you can do to focus on your career or take your time finding the right partner. (Our friends at Jezebel have more on the problematic marketing.)

Even if you know for sure that you want to freeze your eggs, you have a big decision to make: when? A new study published in Fertility and Sterility found that people who froze their eggs had lower-than-expected chances of getting pregnant, either because they didn’t freeze enough eggs in the first place or because they waited too long.

Odds may be best if you’re younger than 38

The new study, which followed 543 people, found that the best success rates were in those who were younger than 38 when they froze their eggs, and those who thawed at least 20 eggs when they were ready to try to get pregnant.

(To get 20 eggs in the first place, you may need to do more than one egg-retrieval cycle when you are freezing the eggs. Each cycle costs around $US10,000 ($13,882), the New York Times reports.)

Even so, freezing your eggs when you’re younger doesn’t guarantee a baby. Even the group with the best chances, in the study, only had a 51% live birth rate, and some needed to do more than one transfer cycle before they had a successful pregnancy. People who froze their eggs at an older age, or who did not use as many eggs, had lower success rates. The overall success rate was just 39% when you consider people of all ages in the study.

An earlier study looked at the question a different way: They used known estimates of success rates, but also considered the age of the eggs themselves when they were used (storing them longer decreases success rates) and the likelihood that a person would eventually want to use their frozen eggs. That study found that freezing your eggs between ages 30-34 gave you the best chance at having a baby, if you know you will want to use the eggs.

But they also found that, if you’re comparing people who do freeze their eggs to people who decide not to, that you have a bit more time. Age 37 is where freezing becomes most cost-effective. Success rates are still high enough that it may be worthwhile, and if you’ve gotten to age 37 and haven’t had a baby yet, you may want to freeze your eggs. (Remember, another possible scenario is that you think about freezing your eggs at age 32 and then end up having a baby the old-fashioned way a few years later.)

So these studies suggest that if you’re going to freeze your eggs, you still have pretty good chances if you do it before you’re out of your mid-thirties. But egg freezing doesn’t guarantee a baby, and there are other risks and considerations that you’ll want to talk through with your doctor.


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