Chatter about egg freezing can be found everywhere from the New York Times to the Mindy Project. Click-baity headlines cover the gamut from horror stories of lost eggs to celebrity accounts of miraculous motherhood. Certainly, egg freezing provides some solace in a land of rising rents and fewer eligible bachelors, but does that mean it’s right for you? There’s no Facebook quiz that can spit out a perfect answer but you can gather some insights from our research in writing Everything Egg Freezing, to help you navigate this topsy turvy time in your life.
1. You’re unsure about motherhood
Do you fall short of being a fully-fledged woman if you don’t have children? Of course not. But, wow, does society expect it of us. While it once might have been unthinkable to feel no urge to step into the role of “mother,” more women than ever before are doing so. While some women are childless by circumstance, for some it’s by choice. It’s something of a statistical trend in the West; one study suggests that almost one in ten women now make this choice. Reasons vary from the more personal (no maternal instinct) to lofty (Swedish researchers claim that having a child is one of the most destructive things you can do to the planet).
While people you know who are parents would probably call themselves “content” or “fulfilled,” the data hints at a different version of the truth. An overview of studies actually suggests that "having children does not bring joy to our lives." It’s counterintuitive, but for most of the parents studied, parenthood leads to no increase, sometimes even a decline, in satisfaction.
The research also points to a discrepancy between the expectations of joy that having kids will provide versus the reality. In essence, having kids might not provide you with the kind of happiness you anticipate having them will. So why doesn’t having kids make us happier? Well, it’s the same thing at play as when we think getting richer, or thinner, will make us happier. It’s termed a “focusing illusion” - a cognitive bias we all get where we place too much importance on a single event. We think that event or outcome has the power to neutralize or override all the boring and bad bits of life (bills, worries, illness, arguments) but in reality, everything kind of stays the same. You get a bit more joy and a bit more trouble so, net net, what’s changed? None of this is to say you shouldn’t have kids, of course! It’s just...having kids might not be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow you might imagine.
So, if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to try on scenarios in your mind, talk to women on both sides of the coin and consciously consider whether or not you really want to one day take on the “mother” role for the rest of your life. It’s a pretty big deal after all! And doing it for the right reasons (rather than purely because it’s expected of you) is way more likely to lead to fulfillment and contentedness.
“Egg freezing made us both realize even more clearly that we do want kids, but that it has to be at the right time. Motherhood is a part of our life plans, it’s just not the life plan – and that feels like a crucial difference.” - Brittany & Catherine
2. If having a biological child is not important to you
Freezing your eggs, after all, could mean the difference between having a genetic link to your future baby or not, if you struggle to become pregnant or stay pregnant in years to come. Despite the fact that around 98% of fertility patients say they would prefer to have a genetic link to their child, there is still an opportunity to have a baby using donor eggs or by adopting.
Using donor eggs
If you decide not to freeze your eggs now and you do become infertile, you might start by undergoing IVF using your “fresh” eggs. If this doesn’t work, you might still be able to get pregnant, but that chance would be by using another woman’s egg, also called a “donor” egg. In this scenario, another woman who is usually under the age of 30, will undergo the equivalent of an egg freezing cycle. But instead of freezing them for later use, in simple terms, they would be fertilized using the sperm donor of your choice and then implanted into your uterus in the hopes of a successful pregnancy.
Regardless of the fact that you carried and gave birth to the child, it would not carry any of your genetic material - just that of the sperm and the donor. The good news is that the success rates are much higher, even on par with the same rates of success from women decades younger. And with the rise in donor egg cycles, also come your options for donor profiles! There are plenty of donor agencies that will offer up women with genetic profiles that are very similar to your own. In fact, many of the doctors on our expert panel have given us the inside scoop on those celebrities in their 40s and 50s that are having babies. Sshhhhh they’re from donor eggs.
3. If your doctor said you'd likely need 3+ cycles
The simple fact is, the more eggs you freeze, the higher the likelihood that those eggs could lead to a baby in the future. Comparatively older women are far more likely to choose to do multiple cycles, sometimes even four or five, which can bring up the average.
A 30 year old might retrieve 15 eggs from one cycle and, given the quality is likely to be good at that age, she may be satisfied with stopping there. On the other hand, a 38 year old woman might retrieve six eggs from one cycle and decide to do a further cycle or two to freeze a total number she is more satisfied with.
“One important consideration is that if you are going to use your eggs at a time when you're getting close to menopause, then you should plan on freezing more eggs. I have seen too many women freeze eggs when they're 32 and come back at age 42 - a time when they're menopausal - to find out that their eggs didn't work and now they're out of options.” - Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, Private Practice Physician, San Ramon
If you are advised to consider two or three cycles, or you would like to, bear in mind that you won’t necessarily calculate the cost of these cycles by multiplying the cost of a single cycle by two or three. An abundance of clinics have multi-cycle deals, which can make the cost-per-cycle more manageable. Some women, particularly those with lower ovarian reserves, even opt for “egg quantity” deals, where you pay a flat rate for a minimum number of eggs to be retrieved, rather than paying out per cycle.
4. If you’re over the age of 40
It does not mean that you cannot and should not freeze your eggs if you’re over the age of 40, but it’s worth being completely candid about what sort of result you might be able to expect. The truth is that freezing your eggs past the age of 35 means you are less likely to get “good” results (both in the number of eggs retrieved and the quality of those eggs) than women under 35 years old. In most cases, if you’re over 35 years old you may require multiple stimulation cycles (read: incremental costs!) in order to increase the probability of having a healthy baby in the future.
If you freeze at age 40, here are a few stats on what your egg freezing cycle might look like (according to some data)
Average of 8.3 mature eggs retrieved from one stimulation cycle.
You would need to bank 40 mature eggs in order to have a 75% chance of one of them becoming a healthy baby.
You would need to undergo nearly 5 cycles of egg freezing to ensure a 75% chance of one of them becoming a healthy baby in the future.
The cost of this many cycles, not including storage, would cost roughly $60,200. This also does not include the cost to use those eggs in the future (e.g. fertilization, any genetic testing, implantation, etc.)
That being said, this is a completely personal decision. If you’re over 40 and you’re highly motivated to have your own biological child one day, egg freezing might be the best chance you’ve got at making that happen.
5. If the cost is far beyond your financial means
There’s no sugar-coating the fact that egg freezing currently comes with a rather hefty price tag. The market has become more competitive in recent years as it becomes more mainstream, with newer clinics advertising services emphasizing relative affordability. However, the costs - in the US in particular - are still substantial. In the US, the average cost of one cycle is $12,500 (including medication) + storage ($500 a year), but the range is anywhere from $10,000 to $18,000 for one cycle, including medication. You might see the most affordable quoted as more like $6,000, but that price doesn’t include medication. Be careful to compare apples with apples.
The range is broad partly due to the pricing approaches of different clinics, but also because there are a number of factors that influence the total cost of any one egg freezing cycle, with perhaps the most important being the amount of medication needed, which varies from woman to woman. Many of these variables are influenced by the age you decide to freeze your eggs (driving the amount of hormone medication needed), as well as the maximum age you would consider using them and the country you freeze your eggs in (storage costs over time.) Egg freezing is substantially cheaper in many other countries, such as Mexico (~$4,000), the UK (~$5,000), Spain (~$4,000), and South Africa (~$3,000). More on this can be found in the “Picking a Clinic” section of the book Everything Egg Freezing.
Could egg freezing actually represent a saving?
Egg freezing is a big expense, yes, but when you put the price into perspective, it might start feeling like a better deal. Researchers have estimated that egg freezing at, say, age 35 and using the eggs at age 40, could potentially save you $15,000, rather than waiting until you're 40 and trying to become pregnant and needing fertility treatment at that time. It makes sense if you consider that once you turn 40, there’s only a nine percent chance that you’ll conceive naturally in one menstrual cycle and IVF treatments at age 40 give you only slightly more chance at 15% per cycle. The reason IVF success rates are so low at that age is because you would be using your “fresh eggs,” or rather, the eggs that match your age versus using younger, frozen eggs. For example, if you froze when you were 35 and used those eggs in IVF at age 40, your chance of success jumps up to 26%.
The lower success rates using fresh eggs translates to higher costs because you’d probably need to undergo multiple cycles. In the US the price of one cycle of IVF will run you about $23k and most women will need around two to three cycles. This nets out to about $50k to have a baby. And then, if after multiple cycles you still can’t conceive, you might choose to get donor eggs from another, younger woman. The cost to do this can be around $40k. On the other hand, if you freeze your own eggs, you essentially function as your own egg donor, which means that off the bat, you’ve got a better chance of being successful. Of course, you might end up not using your frozen eggs at all. Nobody has a crystal ball, unfortunately, so the savings are theoretical. It’s definitely a different way to think about it, though.
What’s the relative value to me?
Some things are really valuable in the long term and some things are kind of...not. The point is that context is king when it comes to assigning a large sum of money to something. When you think of egg freezing in terms of piece of mind and long term quality of life investment, it starts to feel more like an investment in something like your education or pension than something like a handbag or a vacation, right? That’s why it’s probably right to consider egg freezing costs in the context of your whole life, not just your life right now. It’s essential to be responsible and consider how it fits into your wider financial picture, absolutely, but, in the end, what you assign your money to is a factor of what is truly important to you in the long run.
Need more guidance? Read through the full guide in Everything Egg Freezing: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Doing it Right.
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