Planning for the Future
By the time she reaches puberty, the average female has 300,000 to 400,000 eggs remaining in her ovaries, and that number continues to decrease with age. That’s one reason it can be more difficult to become pregnant after the age of 35. Many women want to become parents but worry about the effect of their age on their chances of conceiving. Egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) is one method being increasingly used to increase women’s chances of having a baby as they age.
What Is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing is a process where eggs are removed from the ovaries and frozen for future use. The process starts by a woman taking fertility medications for about two weeks. Eggs are then retrieved and frozen.
Am I a Candidate for Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing is something to consider if:
- You’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer.
- You’ve recently been diagnosed with premature ovarian failure.
- You haven’t found the right partner to begin a family.
- Starting your family is something you’d prefer to pursue later in life.
Things to Consider
- You will undergo medical testing prior to treatment to assess your ovarian reserve.
- How many eggs would you like to freeze is based on chance of pregnancy success as well as how many children you would like to have in the future. Experts suggest 20 to 30 eggs be frozen for the chance of one baby, but be aware that not every egg is guaranteed to thaw successfully or become a baby. You and your doctor are a team and will work together to create a treatment plan that works for you.
- When do you want to get pregnant? The best time to preserve eggs is around age 34 to 37. Egg quality continues to deteriorate after age 38.
What Can I Expect?
No longer considered an experimental procedure as of 2013, egg freezing continues to evolve. Yet, it remains a low-risk procedure and takes roughly two weeks to complete. After consulting with your physician, you’ll take hormone medications that encourage your eggs to grow. The eggs are later retrieved in a quick office procedure and are immediately frozen. When you are ready to use your eggs, they will be carefully thawed and fertilized in an attempt to create embryos. If fertilization is successful, one or more embryos will be transferred back into the woman’s body.
Egg freezing is not right for everyone and is not the only fertility option available. Learn about other treatment options available for fertility preservation, or contact Northwestern Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Medicine. Our compassionate board-certified physicians have helped thousands of individuals become parents. With access to leading-edge treatment options, we will work with you to determine the best care plan to help you achieve pregnancy. Visit fertility.nm.org for more information.
- Mary Ellen G. Pavone, MD, IVF medical director, Northwestern Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Medicine
Interested in connecting more to the Northwestern Medicine community? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E-Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements. Because what makes us better, makes you better.