Egg Freezing: The Pros and Cons (Pt. 1)
A look at the benefits and risks to weigh up before going ahead with "elective" egg freezing.
When you're trying to decide "should I freeze my eggs or not?" it can feel like an uphill struggle to even know where to begin.
Tests and discussions with your doctor will give you good insight into the medical side of things (egg freezing isn't suitable for every woman, so this is a great place to start), but remember this is only a part of the picture when it comes to actually making your decision.
As well as personal factors to weigh up, including financial, moral, religious, cultural and relationship considerations, there are valid general arguments on both sides of the coin when it comes to whether egg freezing is worth it.
The bottom line is: there's no "right" answer per se. But balancing the pros and cons with your own personal circumstances and preferences will help you figure out your right answer:
1. It buys you more time...
The majority of women say they freeze their eggs because they haven't met a partner they want to start a family with, or their partner is not ready to start a family.
Even for women who have found the person they want to have kids with, or who make the choice to go it alone, there are many reasons why it might not be the "right time".
So, when time starts feeling like something you don't have, when it's rushing by faster and faster and the clock is ticking louder and louder and things still haven't clicked into place, then egg freezing can be a way of buying some breathing space and expanding your options.
"Freezing my eggs was like a weight off my mind." [Ali, 36]
2. It promotes equal participation in the workforce
It's not surprising that some women want to put off becoming a mother until their thirties or forties, given that researchers have found that the earlier a woman has children the more her income suffers.
Regardless of whether a women has a college degree, postponing becoming a mom until age 31 significantly improves her lifetime earnings. In fact, the so-called "motherhood wage gap" equates to around a 9% increase in earnings per year of delay.
Given the gradual decline in fertility with age, putting your younger eggs on ice mitigates some of the risks of age-related infertility further down the line.
3. It provides better opportunities for your child
While nobody's saying you have to hit the rich list to procreate (obvs!), delaying parenthood can give you more time to become financially stable, which has tremendous benefits for the health and well-being of your child.
Not only does being debt-free and financially stable allows you to pay the bills on time and be ready to meet your child's needs, but research has found it contributes to the strength of your relationships and the wellbeing of your family as a whole. Half of all adults who report that they are in “problem debt” have experienced mental health issues, which has a knock-on effect on kids.
As the charity all4kids.org puts it: "Poor children are...disproportionately more likely to attend schools in districts with fewer resources, less funding from local tax dollars, less parental involvement due to longer, lower wage working hours, and facilities that are inadequate. Furthermore, families living in poverty may not have access to adequate resources to meet even the most basic needs of their children, let alone their wants."
"Being financially stable reduces these and other risks associated with poverty and financial stress."
4. It reduces the risk of birth defects and genetic disorders
The risks of birth defects like Down syndrome and Turner syndrome increase with rising maternal age. For women who know they are likely to be in their mid thirties and beyond when they aim to get pregnant, egg freezing can function as a way to reduce this risk. That's because it's the age of the egg that matters when it comes to age-related chromosomal abnormalities, not the age of the womb.
And for women who know they carry genetic conditions that might be passed on to children, egg freezing makes it possible to screen for these before implantation.
5. It allows women and couples to have a(nother) child if circumstances change
Sometimes people delay having a child - or a second or third - because external circumstances dictate the time isn't right. This might be because of a job loss, court case, caring for a sick child or parent, partner's illness or accident, or other major life pressure.
In this scenario, it can be helpful to store frozen eggs hoping the stressful, busy or uncertain time will pass and there might be an opportunity to conceive in better circumstances in the future.
Most women who freeze their eggs report feeling lighter and more in control of their fertility, with a sense of relief that they have taken a proactive step.
But despite this, not every story is a happy one and there are some potential downsides to take into account when fully exploring your options. For these, see Egg Freezing: The Pros and Cons (Pt. 2).
And for more in depth reading on exploring egg freezing and figuring out if it could be right for you, check out our doctor-verified guide, Everything Egg Freezing (now available via Amazon)...