Age and Fertility:

We all know that 40 is the new 30 in health, fitness and looks, but, unfortunately, this saying just doesn’t hold true for fertility.

In most women, fertility begins to decline around age 30. After age 35, the rate of decline is steeper, and once woman hit 40, her chance of getting pregnant each month — no matter how healthy she is — is approximately 5 percent.

A healthy 30-year-old woman has a 20 percent chance each month.

This decline in fertility is all part of the normal aging process and does not mean that there is anything wrong with your body.

As you age, there is a decline in your ovarian reserve — the egg quantity and quality.

  • As you age, your body has fewer eggs — it is estimated that only a few hundred eggs are actually released during a woman’s reproductive years.
  • Your hormones also change. Menstrual cycles can become shorter or irregular, and the ovaries do not respond as well to hormonal signals.
  • As you age, your eggs are also aging and may have more genetic abnormalities, known as aneuploidy. Aneuploidy lessens your chances of getting pregnant and increases your risk for miscarriage.

You are more likely to experience infertility the older you are, and the incidence of infertility is increasing because many women and couples are delaying childbirth. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the following is the percentage of married women who are infertile by age group:

  • Age 20 to 24: 7 percent
  • Age 25 to 29: 9 percent
  • Age 30 to 34: 15 percent
  • Age 35 to 39: 22 percent
  • Age 40 to 44: 29 percent

Because it is the ovarian reserve that is so crucial to fertility, freezing your eggs when you are younger may help you to have a healthy child later. For example, if a 37-year-old woman freezes her eggs, she can expect a pregnancy rate typical for 37 year olds when she thaws, inseminates and transfers the resulting embryos when she is older.

Social Reasons for Egg Freezing

While many women choose to delay childbirth due to their careers, working is not always the reason. In fact, one Canadian study found that less than one third of women surveyed cited career goals as their reason for waiting to have children.

In reality, every woman is an individual and has her own reasons, and quite simply, we are products of our society. Women today want to experience all that life has to offer — whether that is furthering their education, traveling or simply having more time with their partner as a couple BEFORE adding another little person into the mix. Today’s women have many more options before them than prior generations had.

But one of the primary reasons women wait to have children is simply because they have not found the right partner yet. The Canadian study found that the three factors with the most influence over when a woman has children are:

  • Being in a secure relationship (97 percent)
  • Feeling in control of one’s life (82 percent)
  • Feeling prepared to parent (77 percent)

The economy also plays a significant role in decisions about having children. During 2012, the fertility rate — the number of births per woman — dropped to its lowest point in 25 years. From a 2007 average that peaked at 2.12 births per woman to 2012’s average of 1.87, the United States is experiencing its lowest fertility rate since 1987. Birth rates are not expected to increase until the economy picks up.

Preserving your fertility through egg freezing may be a good option for you if:

  • You have not found the right partner.
  • You have education, career or travel plans and would like to delay attempts to get pregnant until after age 35.
  • You and your partner are newly married or don’t have plans to start a family until after you are 35
  • You want to have children, but want to wait until you feel more financially secure and/or the economy improves.

Of course, egg freezing is expensive and should be considered if you can afford it. It is also not a guarantee that you will be able to have a family later. But taking the steps now to preserve your future fertility can give you options that were not available to the women of an earlier generation.

Medical Reasons for Egg Freezing

There are certain medical conditions and treatments for medical conditions that can diminish a woman’s fertility. These treatments can range from surgery to remove a woman’s ovaries to drug therapy that has a toxic effect on egg quality.

As egg freezing techniques hvae improved, physicians are talking more about fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment. Treatments such as hemotherapy, while life-saving, attack follicles in the ovaries that contain a woman’s lifetime supply of eggs. Surgery, radiation and system drugs may also damage or destroy a woman’s eggs.

Women who should seriously consider egg freezing for medical reasons include:

  • Young women diagnosied with cancer who wish to store their eggs before surgery on their reproductive organs or before beginning potentially toxic chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Women who have a family history of premature menopause
  • Women who have been advised to have surgery to remove their ovaries due to severe endometriosis or other diseases that can damage or destroy ovarian function
  • Women who have been diagnosed with a medical condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis who may be taking medications that can damage or destroy ovarian function

Another reason to consider freezing eggs is if you are a couple undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) and do not want to freeze embryos due to religious or ethical reasons.

With IVF, there are typically many eggs retrieved and fertilized, and the embryos are frozen for later attempts. However, many couples struggle with the decision about what to do with unused frozen embryos after their family is complete. A solution to this is to freeze the unused eggs that are retrieved instead of freezing embryos  The eggs are preserved to be fertilized and transferred at a later date, and couples are less likely to have feelings of guilt or remorse about what to do with any unused eggs.

Best Age to Freeze Eggs

Elective egg freezing holds promise for women who want to preserve their fertility and delay childbearing. Approximately 1,000 babies have been born using eggs that were previously frozen, and there is no evidence of increased risk to mothers or children born from this procedure.

However, you must think of egg freezing as you would any investment. Invest when you are younger for the reward when you are older.

The younger and healthier your eggs are, the more likely it is that you will be able to conceive later with this technology. (But there are no guarantees.)

With egg freezing, the best outcomes are for women who are younger than 35 when their eggs are frozen. Most fertility clinics encourage women to think about this option in their late 20s to early 30s if they do not have a reproductive partner.

Some fertility clinics may offer egg freezing up to age 40, while others may establish an earlier cut-off date; for example, 38 years old with a normal FSH and AMH hormone test.

Unfortunately, many women don’t even start thinking about freezing their eggs until they are approaching 40. Researchers from Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York found that most women interested in freezing their eggs waited until they were in their mid-to-late 30s (37 to 39), a time when they are already experiencing the natural decline of their fertility.

The scientists analyzed raw data from 26 studies conducted between 1986 and 2010 that reported on in vitro fertilization (IVF)/intracytoplasmic injection (ICSI) pregnancies from mature frozen eggs. The analysis included 1,990 cycles using eggs frozen with a slow-freezing protocol and 291 cycles using eggs frozen via vitrification.

The researchers found that women were more likely to conceive if their eggs were frozen when they were under 30.

  • For slow-frozen eggs, the likelihood of the embryo created implanting declined from 10.4 percent in women whose eggs were frozen when they were under 30 to 4.7 percent in women over 40.
  • For women whose eggs were vitrified, the implantation rate ranged from 18.8 percent in women whose eggs were frozen under 30 to 10.3 percent in women over 40.

When pursuing elective egg freezing, it is important to understand that the younger you are make the decision, the more likely you are to achieve your fertility goals.

Article courtesy of Egg Freezing Costs

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