There’s no question that women are most fertile when younger. In the modern world, that can create problems, as the 20s and 30s are when many women are finishing their education or starting careers. Some women deliberately delay marriage and childbearing for that reason. However, waiting too long can create biological clock problems, and it can be more difficult for a woman to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term when she is older. Egg freezing is one option for these women and may also provide a solution to a women who wants children but has been diagnosed with cancer. Here’s some basic information about egg freezing from New York Reproductive Wellness.
Egg Freezing: Timing Matters
For most women, the biological clock starts ticking in the late 20s, although for many women hormone levels and menstrual cycles follow regular patterns until the late 30s. Fertility in women generally increases gradually soon after puberty, peaks in the early to mid-twenties and then gradually declines. The peak fertility years are also the best time from egg freezing, although successful pregnancies have been conceived from the eggs of older women.
Quality and Quantity Affect Egg Freezing
A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have; that means the eggs age just as she does. During the aging process, eggs can be subjected to radiation, chemicals and toxins that can affect the ability to conceive or complete a full-term pregnancy. Some egg quality issues are well-established – women over the age of 40 definitely have a higher risk of a baby with Down syndrome, for example. Women who are older may not ovulate regularly, so even though they have normal menstrual cycles, they may be less likely to conceive.
Egg Freezing: How It Works
The first step in collecting eggs for freezing is the use of a medication to induce a woman to release multiple eggs. While the woman is under intravenous sedation, a needle is placed in the vagina using guided ultrasound. The eggs are withdrawn through the needle and the water in the egg cell is replaced with an “anti-freeze” solution to prevent ice crystals. The eggs are then frozen and placed in storage at a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius, or -321 Fahrenheit. It’s important to collect at least 10 eggs for each planned pregnancy, as not all will survive and/or develop.
Doctors use in-vitro fertilization to fertilize frozen eggs. After the eggs have been thawed, they are combined with sperm in a glass dish and allowed to grow for several days. The eggs are then implanted in the uterus and the pregnancy develops as it normally would. Younger eggs are better, but doctors have achieved successful pregnancies with 10-year old eggs. Research has found that freezing eggs does not increase the chances of birth defects or pregnancy complications.
If you are considering egg freezing to achieve or delay pregnancy, please contact New York Reproductive Wellness. We’ll be happy to answer questions or schedule an appointment. Serving the greater New York area.