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Should I Freeze My Eggs or Embryos?

It used to be funny when I thought to myself that I’m putting off my “best” childbearing years throughout my 20s. Being the hot mess that I am, I couldn’t imagine having kids then. Given that it takes nine months to have a kid and I’m nearing 33, chances are I won’t actually have my first child until I’m 34 — if I actually am lucky and can have kids.

One option for women who want to (or may want to) give birth later in life (i.e. after you naturally would be able to) is freezing eggs. Some big tech companies even (disturbingly) offer their female employees this as a “perk” of working at their companies (don’t have kids when you can slave away for us instead and maybe one day when you’re old and tired you can possibly for the cost of a new car produce one child if you’re lucky.) Anyway… egg freezing is an interesting concept. I haven’t seriously thought about it until just about now.

Thirty-three is old. It’s not old, old – as in, “I’m a senior citizen” old – but it’s old for wanting to start a family. It’s unfortunate that this is the case because any millisecond before my 33rd birthday (as in right now) I wouldn’t feel ready to be a mother. But I think by 34 I’ll be ok at it. Or at least wise enough to breathe through the crazy and figure it out.

At this point in time, I’m trusting that I’ll be able to have my first kid naturally. That’s a bit of a big leap of faith given that with PCOS I have very irregular periods (though they’ve been getting more regular in my ripe old age) and who knows if I ovulate. I’m playing the “if I will it to happen it will” game at the moment. I’ll probably need some kind of help, at least ovulation drugs, to make a baby. I don’t know. It might not be possible anyway. Maybe all of my eggs suck.

But assuming that somewhere buried under my belly button are two ovaries that like any good life-bearing ovaries want to do are ready to create life (even though they’re covered in cysts.) And, let’s assume that I have enough good eggs left in me to make a few children should choose to be so genetically prolific. Ok, I’m still getting older, and given my first child now isn’t making an entrance into this world until I’m 34 or 35, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to run into the same luck in my late 30s. Why not freeze my eggs now?

It’s a serious question with serious cost associated with it and absolutely no guarantees.

I won’t be alone if I decide to have this procedure done. 76,000 American women are predicted to be undergoing the procedure by 2018 (up from just 500 in 2009 and 5,000 in 2013).

To start, I suppose I ought to go for one of those $99 “pre-IVF tests” that checks up on your fertility. That’s not a lot to invest in to find out that you are infertile and will never have kids (hashtag avoidance) — “this pre-IVF testing takes into account your age, BMI, reproductive history and mostly, your ovarian function, which is based on two hormonal tests: FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estradiol, a form of estrogen. These two tests are done from a blood draw taken on the third day of your menstrual cycle. When you enter this data to the Univfy website, a personalized report is created that shows your relative chances of success with IVF treatments or egg freezing. The report costs $99.

Gilbert Mottla, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Shady Grove Fertility Center in the District of Columbia, says the clinic has traditionally seen a lot of older, professional women, the typical demographic of egg freezers in a cosmopolitan city. But increasingly younger women are seeking it, too. “Thirty-one to 32 … That’s an incredible opportunity to freeze eggs,” Mottla says. “It’s like an insurance policy. Those eggs may serve for her second or third pregnancy.

Ok so I m that miss that 31-32 year old window soon, but if I freeze my eggs at 33, maybe that’s actually a great idea. Maybe I’ll be so happy to have my own eggs later when I’m 38 and want to have my second child and it’s just not happening naturally.

The average cost of egg freezing in the U.S. is $10,000, which covers the tests, extraction, and storage. This doesn’t account for the cost to actually put those eggs back inside you later. Sorry kids, you’re not going to college on my dime, I put your college tuition to making you exist. Oh, and the success rate is just 24% for actually having a live birth from one of these eggs (each cycle) so, you’re still a miracle.

Apparently, you can free your embryos instead of your eggs, and that’s a whole lot more effective. This is something I would look into. Instead of freezing your sad lonely woman eggs, you freeze pre-fertilized eggs and little Sammy or Jimmy or Jen stay frozen in some lab for years until you decide to let them grow into a real person. (Science is weird.)

Embryo freezing has a much higher success rate — 25%-50%, so that seems like the way to go if you have a committed partner and/or don’t mind your future children to have their DNA. Since I’m married and plan on remaining married, this seems like a really good idea.

What worries me most is if we go through the painful, frustrating and expensive process of freezing embryos, we’ll keep putting off actually having kids. I’d have to get Mr. HECC on board with it, and perhaps he would be, but then we’d prob just keep saying “now isn’t the right time to have kids, let’s wait until we’re ready.”

I have nothing against older moms but I don’t want to be too old when I have kids. I already feel like I missed the boat.

For women who want to wait until their 40 to have kids, if they have to go the IVF route, they can save $15,000 by freezing their eggs in advance.

Unfortunately, moving ahead with this means dealing with the reality of being a fucking nutcase for a few weeks while I inject myself with hormones and let a doctor put a needle up my woo-ha and retrieve “mature” egg cells from my ovary. Sounds like truck loads of fun (remind me again why women are historically considered the “weaker” sex?)

A study found that 62 percent of women who freeze their eggs at age 35 and try to get pregnant at age 40 would successfully have a baby, with the average total cost of the procedures leading to the birth coming to $39,946.

Just 42 percent of women who tried to get pregnant at age 40 using IVF with newly retrieved eggs would have a baby, with costs totaling $55,060, on average.

Under a third scenario, women freeze their eggs at age 35, and then at age 40, they try conventional IVF. Only if those newly retrieved eggs don’t work do they proceed to use frozen eggs. Women in this situation would spend an average of $61,887 — making it the most costly option in the study. But this scenario also had the highest success rate, with 74 percent eventually giving birth, the researchers said. —livescience

This is how the science works, kids:

  • woman stabs herself with hormones for a few weeks so she produces a lot of eggs
  • doctor goes in and sucks up those eggs
  • doctor puts sperm in eggs to fertilize them (man does not need to stab self with hormones or get doctor to reach up into him to get said sperm)
  • fertilized embryo is frozen in nitrogen and awaits being defrosted to be put back up inside the woman in an IVF cycle when she may or may not be able to “hold onto” the embryo and make a kid.

#Magic

But it’s not really a bad idea. What if I can’t have kids for years and I decide IVF is the only option… if I have some good fertilized eggs from when I “was” 33, then that’s always a good backup plan. It’s a $10,000 backup plan, but it might be worth the investment. Afterall, kids aren’t exactly cheap anyway (they say they cost $250k per child to raise through 18) so what’s another $10k?

 

 

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2 comments

  1. David says:

    There is something a bit haunting about the idea of companies offering the option of freezing eggs as a job “perk”. Even as it is, the pressure to delay having kids because of the need to establish one’s career/finances goes strongly against biology. By the time a lot of women feel ready to have kids, they are already at a point where their fertility rates are falling fast. This affects men less, but given that people tend to date/marry people in roughly their own age group, in practice biological clocks affect men too.

    Even without going to the extraordinary measure of freezing eggs or embryos, the workplace/society is already structured so as to force women (and, as I mentioned, in practice usually men as well) to delay childbearing well past the peak fertility years. Biologically people are ready to have kids in their late teens or early 20’s so forcing them to wait until well into their 30’s is definitely going against biology.

    It is not just about fertility. People tend to have the most energy when they are young adults. So there is something just a little effed up about society/workplace that won’t let people devote at least some of their energy in their peak years to raising kids. Forcing people to delay raising kids until they are well past their prime is sending a message that society doesn’t really value its next generation all that much.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I agree with you – the “perk” creeps me out. On one hand, I think it’s great — doing this is so expensive and I wish my company offered the perk just to save costs. However, I 100% agree with you that pushing women to wait until their late 30s / early 40s to have kids is horrible as something a business is encouraging. Basically, wait until you are no longer working for us to have kids. Also if they are paying the storage fees you are locked into the job until you use the eggs, plus the cost to actually do the IVF when you’re ready to have kids is so high you’ll want to stay and keep putting it off one more year (why rush if you can implant the eggs whenever?) It’s just all strange but as a nearly 33 something I would like to be able to freeze my eggs right now – not to delay childbirth but to be able to have 2 kids.

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