Fertility Q&A: Should I Freeze My Eggs?

Photographed by Tayler Smith
To mark National Infertility Awareness Week, Refinery29 is dedicating a full week of coverage to an open discussion about becoming a parent. Check out more here.

It took Amy Klein three years, four miscarriages, and 10 doctors in three countries to finally get pregnant and have a baby. During that lonely and isolating time, she went through nearly every treatment available and chronicled the experience in
The New York Times' Motherlode blog. Hundreds of people have written to her with questions about conceiving, IVF, surrogacy, egg donation, adoption, and everything related to baby-making. She’ll be answering some of those questions for Refinery29 — and welcomes yours as well. (Send emails to dearfertilelady@gmail.com)

Q: I just broke up with my boyfriend of two years. He didn’t want kids. Now I’m 36 and wondering if I should freeze my eggs. Is it too late?
A: I’m sorry to hear about your boyfriend. When I was your age, I wasted time with every type of wrong guy. It took quite a few frogs (and therapists) for me to meet my husband when I was 39, a year and half to get married, and four more long years to have a baby. I wish I’d had the ability to freeze my eggs, which promises to freeze your fertility, since it’s the age of the woman’s eggs, not her uterus, that largely affects fertility. But because the technology was still experimental until 2012 (promising only a 30% defrost rate, as opposed to over 85% today), that’s one regret I do not have to have (unlike some of those aforementioned frogs). That’s the long way of saying that I don’t think it’s too late to look into freezing your eggs. Look, it’s true that our fertility begins to decline in our late 20s, with a drop at 35, making it tougher to conceive. But 35 is not the panic button we’ve necessarily been led to believe it is. The decline becomes more serious around 38, with the sharpest drop at 40 or so — nearly the end of our fertility for first-time moms. "The conventional wisdom is: For women under 35, freeze 10 eggs for 50% chance of a live birth," says Janelle Luk, MD, medical director of Neway Fertility in New York. She likens it to a lottery — the more tickets you purchase, the better chance you have of winning, and the older you are, the more eggs you should freeze. "A 36-year-old's eggs are better than a 40-year-old's eggs, and a 40-year-old's eggs are better than a 45-year-old's, who has a 1% chance of getting pregnant with her own eggs," says Dr. Luk. In fact, if you walk into a fertility clinic at 40 or 41, Dr. Luk says the first thing they ask is, “Did you freeze your eggs?” I know you’re 36, but you can’t get too caught up in the numbers, because every woman is different: I know 29-year-olds with diminished ovarian reserve, and a 40-year-old who told me she got 20 eggs in one retrieval.

No matter your personal statistics, your fertility is almost certainly better now than it will be in three years.

It’s also important to remember: Egg-freezing is not a guarantee for a baby. (Trust me: After four unsuccessful pregnancies, the time you feel certain is when you get to hold the live, bawling kid in your arms). There are also not enough women yet who have defrosted their eggs to statistically know if it’s worth the $10,000 investment. So that’s the thing: You can’t know until you try. The best thing you can do is go to your gynecologist or a fertility specialist to have your hormones tested, on day two or three of your cycle. The results will let you know if you’re a good candidate for egg-freezing, or if you should go to the nearest bar and get knocked up by a stranger (KIDDING! I meant, "Get yourself to a sperm bank.") My opinion? No matter what your personal statistics might be, your fertility is almost certainly better now than it will be in three years. So if you have the money, why not? After all, doing one round of egg freezing will take about three weeks, and although the hormones may have some less-than-pleasant effects, it’s much easier than doing multiple rounds of IVF five years later. Listen, although you spent two potentially fertile years in this relationship that didn't work out, the silver lining is that it gave you clarity on the fact that you indeed do want to have children. Knowing yourself and your desires will put you closer to getting what you want in life.

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