Is your biological clock ticking?

Vancouver fertility expert Dr. Beth Taylor talks about freezing your eggs and embryos

drTaylorWomen are feeling and looking younger than ever!  But no matter how good we look and feel for our age, 40 is not the new 30 when it comes to fertility.

A recent study showed that most women have no idea how quickly their fertility begins to decline after age 35.  It’s not only the quantity of eggs that decline as a woman ages, but it’s the quality as well.  Poor egg quality leads to a higher rate of infertility, more frequent miscarriages, and a greater risks for chromosomal disorders in the offspring.

Freezing Your Eggs

Social egg freezing is the term commonly used for the process of saving eggs for the future. Significant improvement in a technique called vitrification—where the egg is frozen very quickly at a low temperature- has dramatically improved the success of the procedure.

The Process and Pregnancy Rates

Egg freezing involves the same process as IVF (in vitro fertilization) where you inject medication to stimulate the ovaries to grow multiple eggs. Eggs are then removed from the body with a needle (that goes through the vagina into the ovaries) and then frozen

Once eggs are frozen, they can remain stored for years. When a woman wishes to use her frozen eggs, they are thawed, fertilized with sperm to make embryos, and the embryos are put into her uterus to achieve a pregnancy. The pregnancy rate per embryo transfer is between 20 to 40 per cent, depending on the woman’s age when the eggs were frozen.

At What Age Should You Freeze Your Eggs?

Freezing eggs when you are young is best and certainly under the age of 38 is ideal. Egg freezing after the age of 38 has a low success rate and is nearly zero after the age of 40.

Who should freeze her eggs?

In an ideal world, single women and couples would try to conceive in their 20s and early 30s, but we know that more and more women are having children in their late 30s and 40s when their biological clocks are running, or have run out. If you are not in position to have a child right now egg and embryo are options to consider

Egg freezing is the best option if you don’t currently have a partner and you want your future child to be the biological offspring of you and future partner.

If you are in a relationship, however, it is better for you to fertilize your eggs with your partner’s sperm and then freeze the embryos.

The Risks of Freezing Eggs and Embryos

Like any medical treatment, there are some risks to egg and embryo freezing. The medication ins can have side effects like bloating, nausea and mood changes There is a very remote chance  that the procedure can cause bleeding, infection or damage to internal (less than one in 1000 cases, fortunately).

Freezing your eggs or embryos does not a guarantee that a healthy pregnancy will occur, so (gulp) do not put all your eggs in the frozen basket! Plan to start your family sooner than later.

How Much Does Egg and Embryo Freezing Cost?

The treatment costs $7500 plus the cost of medications, which is typically $2000 to $3000. Once eggs or embryos are stored, there is a $200 to $400 annual storage free. No part of the treatment is covered by the B.C. Provincial Health Plan, but many private insurance companies will cover part or all of the treatment.

To learn more about your fertility and whether egg or embryo freezing are good options for you, talk to a fertility specialist who can help assess your current and future fertility. There really is no time like the present!

Dr Taylor is co-founder and co-director of Olive Fertility Centre. She is a Clinical Associate Professor at UBC and an active staff member at BC Women’s Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital. She has expertise in all areas of reproductive endocrinology and infertility care.