A narrative often associated with a woman’s decision to freeze their eggs is that they haven’t found the “right” partner yet. But the truth of the matter (and something we need to normalize!) is that egg freezing is for any woman who wants it. And the data shows: the national average of an egg freezing patient was down to 35 in 2018, as more women are deciding to spend time dedicated to traveling, focus more on their career, save money, or simply wait to make the decision to have children.
One thing does remain consistent however: the conversation starts with a woman’s curiosity about their fertile health. Knowledge is power, and it’s important to know and understand your body. Once all the information is available, it’s easier to make a decision that’s right for you. And that’s something so important to us here at Create & Cultivate–empowering women to have agency in every decision they make.
To spark this conversation within our community, we sat down with Spring Fertility, a nationwide clinic with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. Fostering a community lead by compassionate, top-notch physicians, Spring Fertility ensures care is custom. No scenario is taken on with a one size fits all approach. They’re also working to make egg freezing outcomes more transparent through the ‘Spring Promise’ program–a shared risk guarantee. They’re so committed to their patients’ success that if a woman freezes the recommended number of eggs and are unable to achieve a pregnancy in the future, Spring will refund the full amount paid to the clinic.
To help C&C readers take the first step in learning more about their individual health and fertility, they’ve offered $100 off an initial consultation (peep the code below!).
Spring Fertility’s Director of Fertility Preservation, Dr. Catha Fischer, provided insight on 7 important questions from what the freezing process entails, who it’s for, and why you should consider it.
Who should consider freezing their eggs?
Any menstruating woman. Now that’s a hot take, so let me qualify: egg freezing should be something all women are at least aware of as an option when they are planning for their future. I would love to see a world where sometime between our first pap smear and our first mammogram, we have a fertility consult to become more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to egg freezing and fertility preservation. Freezing your eggs is the best way to maintain optionality for your future.
Can women consider egg freezing at any age?
Yes. Technically, any woman who is menstruating can freeze her eggs. That said, timing is very personal and dependent on your individual goals. I call this ‘The Why’ behind egg freezing, and everyone’s ‘why’ is different.
Some women may want to use frozen eggs for all of their pregnancies (and they want four kids)! Some women want to freeze their eggs because even though they already have children, their relationship is struggling and they are uncertain about the future. Some women truly just want a back-up plan for peace of mind.
Your ‘Why’ behind egg freezing will inform the best time for you. In general, younger eggs will yield more healthy pregnancies, but there isn’t a significant difference in egg quality when we are young. From ages 21 – 30(ish) egg quality remains pretty fixed. Throughout our 30’s and into our early 40’s is when we see egg quality decline. After age ~35 (again, depending on your why) is a good time to start seriously putting a plan in motion if you haven’t already.
Does freezing eggs impact the ability to get pregnant later?
No! Freezing your eggs today doesn’t “borrow” from your future fertility, just like being on birth control doesn’t prolong your fertility.
Every month your body releases a fixed number of eggs based on the total number your brain senses you have left. This is the concept of ovarian reserve, which is measured by hormones like AMH. During an egg freezing cycle, we are preserving those eggs that would normally have disintegrated naturally because they didn’t have enough fuel to grow. Our goal as Fertility Specialists is to provide enough fuel (through injectable hormones) to grow and mature as many eggs as possible. The eggs that are ultimately retrieved would have disappeared without intervention, so we are not “borrowing” against your future fertility.
This is also why there is variability between the number of eggs retrieved from person to person. We counsel our patients not to compare numbers – everyone is different!
What are the steps involved in the egg freezing process?
Step one is finding a clinic and doctor you like and trust. This is key. Egg freezing can be emotional and costly. A strong team and clinic behind you is a great resource.
At Spring, we counsel prospective patients to look at things like clinical success rates (you want to make sure your clinic has high success in thawing your eggs in the future!), financial options (do they offer financing or a payment plan if you need it?), and a commitment to your success (do you have an individualized protocol that works for your body and does your clinic offer any sort of shared risk program?).
At the initial consult, we will discuss your goals and assess your ovarian reserve with an ultrasound and hormone panel. Armed with this information, we will make a care plan. Remember that it takes your body about ten days to grow one egg, so we now have the same timeline to grow ten to twenty eggs. Egg freezing is a sprint not a marathon. Over a ten to twelve day period, you come to the office about four to five times for a transvaginal ultrasound and blood work. We use these visits to understand how you are responding to medication and when the best time for a retrieval will be. The egg retrieval is a fifteen to twenty minute procedure with monitored anesthesia. We will know the total number of mature eggs frozen later that day. You will be a little groggy that day but should feel pretty good the next day. In general, the more eggs we retrieve the more side effects, like bloating and discomfort, you feel. This feeling is more like eating too much food rather than sharp pain.
What factors influence the retrieval and freezing of eggs?
An egg retrieval is a surgical procedure. Factors that can affect it center around the patient’s overall health. Conditions such as obesity, ovarian cysts, and uterine fibroids to name a few can affect the total number of eggs retrieved. The freezing, or cryopreservation, of eggs is a highly technical procedure. A well trained embryologist and state of the art equipment are must to this procedure well.
What actually happens when an egg is frozen?
An egg is the body’s largest cell. Like almost every cell in our body, it has a significant water content. To freeze an egg, we essentially dehydrate it-think grape to a raisin. When an egg is frozen, the cellular processes are also frozen. So we are stopping the clock on these eggs, which is why (in addition to generally being able to retrieve more eggs), it’s advantageous to do this when we are younger.
What resources are available for women who are considering egg freezing or have questions about other fertility topics?
There are lots! For starters, go see a fertility doctor! We are here to explain your options and help guide decision making. If you are just beginning to explore your options, I always encourage people to attend free informational events and read information from credible sources, like fertility clinics. There are also some at-home testing kits available for basic information to start the process of knowledge gathering.
If you, or someone you know, are considering freezing your eggs, mention code CREATE for $100 off an initial fertility consult with Spring Fertility at any of their San Francisco Bay Area and NYC locations. Please mention the code when booking. Offer valid until December 31, 2021 for self-pay patients only.