When should women begin thinking about freezing their eggs? Why would anyone consider this option? What are some things you should know before pursuing it?
The age of first pregnancy has changed drastically in the past decade, and more women than ever before are freezing their eggs. According to statistics, one in five women today is delaying her first pregnancy until after age thirty-five. Over the last fifteen years, the occurrence of first pregnancy after age forty has increased by 50%.
More women are pursuing careers and marrying later in life. This is leading to later first pregnancies, and many women fear that waiting to get pregnant is risky. Some wait until they are at a point in their careers where they can slow down and take a break. Other women have financial obstacles, so waiting means planning for a time when it makes financial sense.
Last month, I decided to do some fertility testing. The procedure involved an ultrasound of my ovaries and blood work to determine my hormone levels and estimate my fertility potential. The ultrasound revealed two cysts on one ovary and a fibroid on the other. The doctor said I probably have endometriosis. The official diagnosis comes from a biopsy of the ovarian tissue. Most doctors discourage this procedure for women who have not had children because it can permanently damage the ovary.
Endometriosis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the endometrial lining of the reproductive organs—the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries. The vagina, rectum, and bladder are also affected by this condition. Symptoms include painful and heavy periods, cramping, abdominal fullness, and can lead to infertility. I also learned that endometriosis can cause inflammation in other parts of the body as well, including the intestines, stomach, and liver. Basically, the whole pelvic region is under attack.
My partner and I have decided to hold off on starting a family. We are even discussing whether having a family at all is the right decision for us. I never felt a rush to start a family, but I do know that a fertility window with an expiration date often crosses my mind. This uncertainty is why I decided to take the test in the first place. My blood results showed that my hormone levels are suitable for pregnancy. The problem now is getting my autoimmune issues under control and preparing for the pregnancy risks that are common with the condition.
I encourage all women to consider their needs and those of their relationship before starting a family. It is your body, and you don’t have to meet any expectations when it comes to what you should do with it.
So, is egg freezing right for me? It certainly has its benefits. I would like the option since choices are limited when it comes to your own eggs. I’m doing my research to understand what I need to know before making the decision. To freeze, or not to freeze: that is the question.
Here are some factors that make freezing one’s eggs a consideration:
- Women with cancer: Chemotherapy and radiation can destroy a woman’s eggs and can lead to infertility. Freezing the eggs before the treatment can help preserve them.
- Women who are pursuing careers or educational goals or facing challenging life events: Freezing eggs at an early reproductive age can help a woman get pregnant in the future. The uterus doesn’t age the way eggs do, and it can carry a pregnancy into the forties. Your egg fertility, on the other hand, starts to drop at age twenty-five.
- Women with a family history of early menopause: Fertility is linked to genetics. Freezing eggs can help preserve them before they are depleted.
It is important for women to know that this procedure is still in development and does not give any guarantees; there is a chance that the eggs will not survive the freezing process. The procedure also requires women to be injected with hormones over a two-week period and to make frequent visits to the doctor’s office before the eggs are extracted.
If you are considering this procedure, I recommend that you do your research. If you find a company that seems legitimate, ask questions: What is the success rate? How many women have been treated through the company? Collect all the data you need to make the right decision. For some women, the financial cost isn’t as much of a factor when faced with the possibility of having to do fertility treatments later on if she can’t get pregnant.