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If you're thinking about freezing your eggs, you probably have a million questions — especially about the best age to freeze your eggs.
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte or egg cryopreservation, is a way to preserve fertility. It involves collecting eggs from your ovaries and freezing them so you can use them later. If you later find it hard to get pregnant naturally, there is the option to unfreeze your eggs and use them during in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
In recent years, egg freezing has become more and more popular. The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) reports that the number of egg storage cycles has increased rapidly, from 1,500 cycles in 2013 to almost 9,000 in 2018 — an increase of 523%!
Egg freezing can undoubtedly offer more agency and options if you're not ready to start a family just yet, but with age being a key factor in fertility, what's the best age to freeze your eggs?
When it comes to fertility, there are no hard-and-fast rules on when to freeze your eggs, but age plays a significant role. As you get older, your ovarian reserve gradually declines, and the quality and quantity of your eggs decrease. So, biologically speaking, the sooner you freeze your eggs, the better. In reality, though, it’s rarely that simple.
Ovarian reserve is far from the only factor that impacts your decision to freeze your eggs (more on that below), and your lifestyle, financial circumstances, and overall health also play a part. So, below is a rundown of the pros and cons of freezing your eggs at different stages of your life.
Freezing your eggs in your early twenties can be a great idea from a biological standpoint because a woman's fertility is usually at its best and the ovarian reserve is high. This means that the eggs collected are of high quality and can survive freezing and thawing better than eggs from older women. However, egg freezing can be expensive, and not everyone in their early twenties has the finances to afford the costs and storage fees.
Another thing to consider is whether you need to freeze your eggs so soon. Research has also shown that younger women are less likely to use their frozen eggs because they're more likely to meet a partner and conceive naturally before age-related infertility becomes a problem.
There are, however, certain circumstances where it might be best to consider freezing your eggs in your early twenties.
If you have medical conditions like PCOS or endometriosis that can impact your fertility or are about to undergo cancer treatment, freezing your eggs at a younger age may be the right choice. Similarly, if you're a transgender man who is assigned female at birth and is starting hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, freezing your eggs can preserve your fertility and make starting a family easier later.
If you're considering freezing your eggs, your late twenties or early thirties might be the sweet spot. This is when your eggs are at their highest quality and quantity, giving you the best chance of a successful pregnancy later on. You're also more likely to have the expendable income to afford elective egg freezing and a better idea of when you'd want to start a family.
But don't worry if you're not quite ready to decide yet. A study from 2015 called "Optimal Timing for Elective Egg Freezing" found that freezing your eggs before the age of 32 doesn't necessarily increase your chances of having a live birth. Remember that fertility is subjective, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into freezing your eggs simply because your “biological clock” is ticking. The best thing you can do is book an appointment with an Apricity advisor and talk through your options for egg freezing.
If you're over 35 and thinking about freezing your eggs, it's important to know that you may need to freeze a larger number of eggs for the best chance of pregnancy down the line. Freezing eggs when your fertility is declining could affect their quality or quantity, so to increase your chances, you may need to undergo multiple egg collection cycles to gather the optimal number of eggs required.
A recent study looked at more than 1,200 people who underwent egg freezing cycles and found that as the age increased, multiple cycles were needed to reach the ideal number of eggs needed to achieve a 70% live birth rate after one or two cycles.
Although there is consensus that women's fertility declines with age, the rate of that decline is not constant. Experts often cite 35 as the age at which fertility starts declining more rapidly, but that depends on your individual body and circumstances, so it is worth speaking to a fertility expert and undergoing the recommended diagnostic tests to understand your chances of success.
An HFEA report shows that although the most common age of women freezing their eggs for treatment is 38, some freeze their eggs well into their forties. With Apricity, you may be able to freeze your eggs up to 43.
Research has shown that women over 40 who freeze their eggs may have a lower chance of a successful live birth. With age, there's also an increased risk of your eggs having chromosomal abnormalities, which can increase your risk of pregnancy complications and miscarriage. It’s absolutely possible to have a healthy pregnancy in your forties. Still, it's crucial to understand your likelihood of conceiving and carrying a pregnancy to term before deciding to freeze your eggs in your forties by talking with a fertility doctor.
Deciding to freeze your eggs is a deeply personal decision that requires careful consideration. While your age plays a significant role in successful fertility later in life, there are other important factors to consider, such as your health, lifestyle, and financial readiness to incur the costs of freezing and storing your eggs.
While it is best to try and freeze your eggs at a younger age, it’s very dependent on you as an individual, your fertility, and personal circumstances, and the best place to start is with a fertility test and talking to a doctor.
It's also important to understand that egg freezing is not a foolproof "insurance policy" for your fertility. Instead, it can buy you time until you're ready to start a family and improve your chances of having a baby, but it’s not a guarantee. If you're curious about egg freezing and want to know if it's right for you, we're here to help. You can book a free consultation with an Apricity fertility advisor to learn more.
(n.d.). Fertility drugs. Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority. https://www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/explore-all-treatments/fertility-drugs/
(n.d.). Fertility problems: Assessment and treatment. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156/chapter/Recommendations#procedures-used-during-ivf-treatment
(n.d.). IVF options. Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority. https://www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/explore-all-treatments/ivf-options/
(n.d.). What happens in IVF? National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156/ifp/chapter/What-happens-in-IVF
(n.d.). IVF. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/risks/
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