It’s no secret that many women are waiting until later in life to have kids. It’s also no secret that getting pregnant is harder the longer you wait. One of the factors that doctors cite as a difficulty for older would-be moms is that as eggs age, they become less viable. Recently, there was a big flurry of headlines about how doctors are figuring out to use stem cells in the ovaries to make more eggs, over and above the lifetime allotment that women are born with. This is tremendous news for women who are having trouble conceiving due to compromised egg quality. But there’s another, less heralded option that some women use to preserve their fertility: freezing their eggs.
I’ve only ever known one women who froze her eggs and it was a reaction to a cancer diagnosis. She didn’t know if the treatment would render her infertile so she froze eggs as a safeguard against adverse effects. When she told me about this, I nodded and commended her foresight. I never thought about egg freezing for healthy women.
Last week, the Huffington Post published a first-person account of a healthy 34-year-old woman freezing her eggs so that she could preserve them for later use. Her reasoning is that she has wants children eventually but her life is not in a configuration to make that possible. She spent $10,000 out of pocket for the process of hormone treatments that are just like fertility treatments to grow as many eggs as possible during a single cycle then remove them surgically for preservation.
The author, who was anonymous, didn’t talk about what happens next. Presumably, her ideal outcome is to find a permanent partner and conceive naturally when the time is right and never touch the frozen eggs. But the eggs are an insurance policy of sorts, something to use if she faces infertility down the road and has trouble conceiving with the eggs she has in her body at that moment. Or perhaps if she doesn’t partner up, she can use the eggs with donor sperm to conceive on her own.
Or maybe she’ll decide that she doesn’t want kids at all.
Part of me wants to applaud this woman for seizing control of her reproductive destiny and using one possible option for extending her childbearing years into the years when she will feel ready to bear children. But, as she says in the piece, egg freezing is still considered experimental and has only resulted in about 2,000 live births. She may have put all her eggs into a flawed basket, so to speak.
As with everything related to fertility, pregnancy, and parenthood, egg freezing is a complicated issue. I’m basically in favor of it because it doesn’t hurt anyone and can result in really positive outcomes. But that doesn’t mean it’s a magic solution for all women.
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