This is a big, fat question. And the truth is, there’s no easy or correct answer.
No fertility doctor we've talked to believes there is a one-size-fits-all correct time or method when it comes to fertility planning.
It's also not a decision that a doctor can ever make FOR you. That makes sense. Although egg freezing is a medical procedure, it’s also one driven by subjective lifestyle inputs, so
With that said, a specialist fertility doctor is the best place to start to help you figure out if you’re a good candidate biologically for the procedure (in terms of your age and general health).
After that, when it comes down to it, YOU are the only person who can truly get right into the meat and bones of your own life goals, preferences and finances and distill them down to a decision.
To help you in that process, we’ve whittled down a series of questions that are a good blueprint to follow to make the most informed choice that you can feel happy and confident in.
So the first one to ask yourself is the simplest and in some ways the hardest...
1. How Do I REALLY Feel About Being a Mom Someday?
The fact is: society still broadly expects women to want children. How much is your plan to have children one day based on convention, rather than actual desire? This is something that we find a lot of women have never really stopped and considered in any real, introspective detail.
It can be a hard thing to voice, after all. But 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 an increasing number it’s by choice. One study suggests that almost 1 in 10 of women now make this choice.
This could be because they find they don’t have what you could call maternal instinct, to concerns that having a child is one of the most destructive things you can do to the planet, or because studies actually suggest that "having children does not bring joy to our lives." Having kids is kind of like a “focusing illusion” - a cognitive bias we all get where we place too much importance on a single event.
We think it will be a happy step change that will neutralize or override all the boring and bad bits of life 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?
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.
Doing it for the right reasons (rather than purely because it’s expected of you) is way more likely to lead to fulfilment and contentedness.
The next question to ask yourself is...
2. How Much Does it Matter to Me That I'm Biologically Related to My Kids?
The use of donor eggs (usually donated to older women by anonymous women under 30 years old, or a family member) has radically increased over the past decade. However, given 98% of fertility patients say they would prefer to have a genetic link to their child, rather than using donor eggs or adopting, this is probably more to do with the rise in the age at which women are starting families rather than people’s preferences changing that much.
If you were to use donor eggs in the future, the latest research suggests positive outcomes for kids - with the caveat that there is a benefit to telling them about the nature of their conception before they start elementary school.
There’s certainly far less stigma around donor eggs and sperm as it becomes more common, but if a genetic link feels like something that is important to you, then you might prefer to freeze now and think of yourself as a potential egg donor to their future self, should you need one.
3. How Many Kids Do I Want?
Something not considered often is your entire could conceive no problem at 38 years old with one child...but if you want two or three...maybe you could run into difficulties conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy after that.
Secondary infertility is a real and rising issue, too. Some studies even say this accounts for at least one in three (maybe up to one in six) infertility cases
The next big question is...
4. Am I the “Right” Age to Freeze?
This is something your doctor will go through with you in detail when it comes to medical side of things, but you should consider yourself from other perspectives, too...
Statistics indicate that most women who freeze their eggs are between 36 and 38 years old. However, what’s right for someone else might not be right for you.
There is not one single answer to this question, as it’s got to be weighed along with all the other factors like costs, your own life plan, and your doctor’s advice.
But here’s what the experts say:
Although the best biological time to freeze your eggs is in your early 20s, though many fertility doctors will discourage women to freeze their eggs in their early 20s because the chances of needing the eggs is so remote.
The best financial time to freeze your eggs is age 37 researchers who ran a cost-benefit analysis found that’s when women get the most “benefit” out of egg freezing - you’re “young enough” for their eggs to still be reasonably fertile, but “old enough” for the likelihood of using the eggs in the future to go up.
Doctors recommend the best time is between ages 30 and 34 . Egg quality and quantity start reducing at around 30 years old. Freezing eggs at this time of life, when we have more sense of life plans, is more appropriate than in our 20s, as it becomes increasingly likely we might derive some practical use out of egg freezing.
[Read more about What's the Best Age to Freeze My Eggs?]
Another real consideration is...
5. Can I Afford it?
There's no getting around it: egg freezing is a spendy procedure. Especially for something that doesn’t come with a 100% guarantee.
With average costs of around $12,500 (plus storage fees of around $500 per year), it’s not within reach for everyone. Unless money is no object, how can you figure out if it’s going to be something you can realistically do?
Relevant inputs to understand the total cost include the location you want to freeze your eggs, your current age, how many cycles you might need, and what your financing options are. Egg freezing is substantially cheaper in other countries like the UK, Spain and South Africa.
And finally, it’s good to ask yourself...
6. What’s My Likely Timeline, and What Are My Options if I Decide Not to Freeze?
To help gauge this, we’ve created something that we call the "Fertility Forecast." The process gives you a birds-eye-view of your fertility charted out, similar to forecasting a budget or a business plan, and can help you make the most informed decision.
It’s surprisingly easy for us all to think we have more time left on the biological clock than we actually do - especially if you want to have a child with a partner and ypu haven’t actually met that person yet.
Or, if you decide to have a child without a partner, you might need some time to get financially prepared, go through the process and practicalities of finding the right sperm donor.
Doing the Fertility Forecast is a great way to lay it all out in black and white and get intentional about the decision...
Take the Fertility Forecast