When you’re born, your ovaries contain right around three million eggs. Because some of those eggs reach a certain point of maturity, stop developing, and die off every day, you’re only left with about 300,000 eggs by the time you hit puberty.
Although a 90% reduction in egg supply may seem drastic, this prepubescent decline isn’t the decline you need to worry about.
It’s the progressive decline of egg quantity — and quality — in your reproductive years that you need to consider, especially if you’d don’t plan to start a family in your twenties, when your ovarian reserve (the number of eggs in your ovaries) is most favorable.
Whether you’ve been busy pursuing important life goals or you simply haven’t found the right partner yet, freezing your eggs gives you a way to pause your biological clock and preserve your fertility. Here’s how it works.
Egg freezing, also known as egg cryopreservation or egg banking, is designed to take the age-related factor most likely to diminish your fertility — egg quantity and quality — out of the equation.
Pregnancy rates peak when you’re in your twenties, because that’s when your ovarian reserve is optimal. Those rates fall by nearly half once you reach your thirties, and plummet to a tiny fraction of what they once were by the time you’re in your forties.
By harvesting and preserving high-quality eggs when your ovarian reserve is relatively high, egg freezing safeguards your ability to have biological children when age-related reproductive changes may make it harder for you to become pregnant without assistance.
If you’re expecting a significant decline in fertility in the near future, freezing your eggs can provide you with a kind of insurance policy that basically holds your eggs — and your ability to have biological children — in a state of suspended animation.
But when, exactly, is the best time to consider freezing your eggs?
When you’re in your twenties, you still have several years before your fertility may decline significantly, so you may be advised to postpone egg freezing until you’re in your thirties. Once you reach your thirties, however, egg freezing can be an ideal solution if personal, economic, or professional circumstances are likely to keep you from starting a family in the foreseeable future.
To ensure high-quality eggs, it’s best to freeze them when you’re in your thirties — ideally, between the ages of 32 and 38. Preserving your eggs within this optimal window of time helps protect their integrity and ensure you have healthy eggs, which increases your chances of conception through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) when the time is right.
Egg freezing can also be an excellent solution for women younger than 30 who have a family history of premature ovarian failure, early menopause, or any other condition that may reduce their fertility potential more rapidly than normal.
Before you can freeze your eggs, you’ll have to undergo ovarian reserve testing to determine your current level of ovarian function. Using bloodwork and ultrasound imaging, ovarian reserve testing helps ensure you receive the best medication protocol to maximize the number of eggs your ovaries produce in a single cycle.
During the stimulation phase, which lasts 10-12 days, you self-administer an injectable hormonal medication to encourage your ovaries to develop multiple mature eggs. As soon as your bloodwork and ultrasound tests reveal that your estrogen levels and follicle measurements are just right, our specialists can retrieve your eggs in a quick, painless procedure.
Finally, your mature eggs are prepared for cryopreservation and stored in liquid nitrogen under strict laboratory conditions.
Because egg freezing is relatively new compared to sperm banking and embryo preservation, researchers don’t yet know exactly how long frozen eggs remain viable. What they do know, however, is that with proper extraction and storage, frozen eggs can remain viable for many months or even years, depending on your age. Younger women’s eggs tend to last longest.
Here at California Center for Reproductive Health, our affordable egg freezing program uses the most advanced cryopreservation protocols to achieve a high rate of success. If you’re in the greater Los Angeles area, and you’d like to learn more about egg freezing, give us a call today, or use our easy online tool to schedule a visit with one of our fertility specialists any time.