In 15 years as a researcher and physician, I have seen many reasons a woman will choose to delay having a child:
We know that getting pregnant becomes more difficult as a woman gets older. Also significant is the fact that as a woman ages, the risk of Down syndrome increases. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the ability to get pregnant begins to decline at age 30, with pregnancy becoming unlikely at age 45. ACOG also reports that the likelihood of Down syndrome for a baby with a mother age 30 is 1 in 940 pregnancies, compared to 1 in 353 at age 35.
As a fertility concierge, I am available to talk to women (and couples) about what they can do now to increase their chances of having a healthy, biological child in the future. One option is creating an embryo with the egg of the woman and the sperm of the male partner or donor, and then freezing the embryo to be transferred to the uterus later. This is in vitro fertilization (IVF).
But in this article, I will focus on the second option — egg freezing — because it is an option for women who would like to attempt pregnancy with a future partner. The eggs remain viable indefinitely, and the rate of success is equal to embryo freezing.
What we often refer to as “freezing your eggs” is called oocyte cryopreservation. A reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe a woman fertility drugs (such as follicle stimulating hormone) to induce the growth of multiple eggs to be retrieved surgically from a woman’s ovaries. The eggs are frozen without being fertilized and stored. Later the eggs can be thawed, combined with sperm in a laboratory and then transferred to a woman’s uterus or the uterus of a gestational carrier.
A cutting-edge technology is called vitrification, in which the eggs are frozen so quickly that they go directly from a liquid to a solid. This avoids the crystallization that happens with traditional cryopreservation, which can damage the inside of the egg. Women interested in learning more about this process can get in touch here.
I encourage all women to learn about how their reproductive health affects their overall health and to learn about signs that their reproductive system is functioning well. It is never too early to begin talking with their gynecologist about future fertility. The best time to begin ovarian reserve screening depends on a woman’s personal or family history and their desires for having children. Testing ovarian reserve each year can detect sudden declines in ovarian reserve, which would make it more important to freeze oocytes. This can be done in the office or at a lab, and there is even an at-home kit you can do to measure your hormone levels. It is a finger-stick blood test manufactured by Modern Fertility, costs $159, and you can call them for your results. (Please note: This is not a product endorsement and is for information only.) I can call for your results and review them with you.
As a fertility concierge, I can answer your questions about the egg freezing process, talk with you about your current health and how it affects your fertility, and recommend a lab for genetic screening. If you decide that egg freezing is the right choice for you, I can attend any appointments or consultations to be a second set of ears, and to be sure the process goes as smoothly as possible for you. Contact me here to learn more about this option to learn if it is the right choice for you.
For gay men looking to become parents, gestational surrogacy has become a popular option. In the past, it was more common for a surrogate to be artificially inseminated and then carry the baby to term. With gestational surrogacy, one woman donates the eggs and a second woman carries the baby. In this case, the success rate can be influenced by selecting both the healthiest eggs and the healthiest gestational carrier. One or both men can contribute the sperm that is used to form the embryo (or embryos).
Dr. Wolff is the founder of Pelex, a concierge fertility practice where she educates her patients in the complexities of assisted reproduction and serves as their advocate throughout their journeys toward parenthood.