What is the best age for egg freezing, according to fertility doctors?
This blog post is written by our good friends Catherine Hendy and Brittany Hawkins, co-founders of ELANZA Wellness. Experts in egg freezing and fertility, they’re on a mission to reimagine fertility care through technology. Check them out for more resources to help you on your fertility journey.
Figuring out the “right age” to freeze is the most common question we get from women.
The honest answer is that there is not one specific age that is the best age to freeze eggs. There are a multitude of factors that should be weighed against one another to determine if it is the right time to freeze. Things like costs, your own life plan, your health, your doctor’s advice, and even your own feelings of how much your biological clock is driving your life decisions — should all be included in the very personal equation to determine what age is the best age to freeze.
That said, there are some age-related “guardrails” that can steer your decision-making. As a rule of thumb, most doctors say that in an ideal world you should freeze your eggs younger than age 37. That will maximize your chance of being able to have a good number of good quality eggs retrieved. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in freezing after that age. In fact, the average age for egg freezing is 38 years old and some women freeze into their early forties.
Legally, in the US, UK and most other countries around the world there is no upper age cap for egg freezing. However, there is a lower likelihood of success the older you are, so most clinics will only accept women for egg freezing procedures up to a maximum of age 45, and that’s only after they give thorough counseling on the low probability of success at that age.
Let’s take a look at the facts when it comes to the best age to freeze your eggs:
The best biological time to freeze your eggs is in your early 20s
That’s when your egg quality and quantity are at their highest. But of course these “prime reproductive years” in a physical sense don’t always correspond to when you are likely to be emotionally and practically ready for motherhood, especially these days.
If you think about it…our lifespans have tripled but our reproductive years have stayed the same. In my 20s, I felt like I was just getting started in the world, I wasn’t at all ready to start a family! — Brittany Hawkins, former egg freezer
And despite this being the best biological time to freeze, doctors rarely recommend that women freeze their eggs in their 20s because it is not necessarily clear whether or not a woman will need to use them. Unless there is a pressing medical issue such as undergoing cancer treatment or a diminished ovarian reserve, most doctors believe there is still sufficient time in a woman’s prime reproductive years to have children naturally.
The other factor to consider about freezing in your 20s is the total price. Freezing your eggs when you’re younger often means that you won’t need to use them for a number of years. Over this time, they must be stored — and that storage costs money…often to the tune of $500 per year. You can see how quickly that might add up over time, and that’s even if you end up needing to use them at all. On the flipside, if you do need them, there’s a very good chance they’ll be quality!
“Many fertility doctors will discourage women to freeze their eggs in their early 20s because the chances of needing the eggs is so remote.” — Dr. Eleni Greenwood Jaswa, UCSF
The best financial time to freeze your eggs is age 37
Researchers from the University of North Carolina ran a cost-benefit analysis on egg freezing and found that freezing at age 37 is when you theoretically would get the most “benefit” out of egg freezing.
At that age, you’re still hypothetically “young enough” for your eggs to still be quality (🤞), but “old enough” for the likelihood of using the eggs in the future to go up, which means that the initial costs were justified and you’d pay less in storage fees in the process.
HOWEVER, this comes with a big, fat caveat: freezing your eggs past the age of 35 means you are less likely to get “good” results (both in the number of eggs retrieved and the quality of eggs) than women under 35 years old.
That’s not to say it won’t work, but if you’re over 35 years old you may require multiple egg freezing cycles in order to increase the probability of a live birth in the future.
Doctors recommend the best time is between ages 30 and 34
According to most fertility doctors, between ages 30 and 34 is the optimal time to freeze. Despite the fact that a woman’s egg quality and quantity start to decline around age 30, she is still within a window in which she will produce quality eggs. And, because of her age, she is more likely to need them in the future in case she cannot get pregnant naturally.
Our personal experience
We froze our eggs at age 32 (Catherine) and age 33 (Brittany), which is considered pretty early — we were some of the first of our friends to freeze our eggs. But neither of us feel like it was too early.
Practically speaking, we considered the fact that the sooner we froze, the higher the likelihood of it being a successful cycle and the higher chances of it being a successful IVF cycle if we needed to use our eggs in the future.
In terms of how egg freezing fits into our family planning goals, we both know we want to have two children in the future. Perhaps we might be able to conceive naturally with the first child but our concerns stem from the stats around our rates of fertility by the time we’re ready to have the second child.
“Age is the key factor for egg freezing success.” — Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority , UK
From an emotional standpoint, the real crux for freezing in our early thirties were the stats on miscarriages and the fact that older eggs usually equates to multiple rounds of IVF. Knowing we could do something to reduce the chances of these things lit a fire beneath us and got us going on fertility preservation while we were still pretty young.
If you’re worried you’ve left it too late, think on this: you’ll never be younger than you are today. And there’s no such thing as too late to check out what’s going on under the hood, or seek a consultation to discuss your options. Read about how to pick a clinic .
Forecasting your own fertility journey (free worksheet)
When it comes to deciding whether or not egg freezing is right for you, biology only tells you half the story. In writing the book, Everything Egg Freezing: The Step-by-Step Guide to Doing it Right we developed a list of questions that you should ask yourself about what you want and realistically foresee as your future family goals. Questions like: How important is it for me to have a biological child of my own? And if I do want them, how many children do I want?
To help other women navigate through their own fertility timeline, we developed a “fertility forecast worksheet.” Everyone has a pang of anxiety around major life planning, but really, charting out life’s scenarios doesn’t set them in stone. The process just gives you a birds-eye-view similar to forecasting a budget or a business plan, and can help you make the most informed decision. Writing it all out in black and white is a first step in being quietly intentional with this area of your life and can help you get a better handle on the fertility realities of the age at which you might actually try for your first child, let alone when it comes to a second or third. Whether or not you decide to freeze your eggs in the end, fertility forecasting will help you realistically forecast the age you’ll be when you might start trying to get pregnant and what fertility challenges this age represents.
Use our Fertility Forecast worksheet to help you plan your journey. Download the free PDF worksheet from the Resources section and follow the instructions.
For more information on age and egg freezing, plus insights from our expert panel of fertility doctors check out our book, Everything Egg Freezing: The Step-by-Step Guide to Doing it Right.
Originally published at https://www.heymirza.com on December 16, 2020.