Best Time to Freeze Your Eggs is When You’re Young

Oocyte cryopreservation can preserve your fertility
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Scientists say they have figured out the best age for women to freeze their eggs if they want to get pregnant as late in life as possible.

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A recent study finds that women who freeze their eggs at age 34 or younger have the highest chance of success when trying to conceive later in life. Or, to look at it another way, the longer a woman waits to freeze her eggs, the less likely the eggs will result in a live birth.

Why the wait

Young women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for cancer have been the typical candidates to freeze their eggs so that they can bear children after their cancer treatment ends. Chemotherapy drugs and radiation to the pelvis can cause genetic changes in sperm and oocytes, or human eggs.

But with advances in technology, freezing human eggs — called oocyte cryopreservation — has become easier, making it attractive to many women who wish to delay childbearing for so-called social reasons, such as pursuing educational or career goals or other personal reasons. A woman’s fertility — her ability to get pregnant — declines with age.

Fertility begins to decline early 30s and drops rapidly in the late 30s and 40s. The risks for miscarriage and birth defects both rise with age as well. Egg freezing enables  a woman to bank her eggs when she is young in order to have the same high fertility potential when she is ready to conceive later in life.

The first baby conceived from a frozen egg was born in 1986. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology reports that at least 956 babies were born from frozen donor eggs in 2013.

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Recent studies show that there is no difference in fertilization, pregnancy and birth defect rates between fresh and frozen eggs. In 2012, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine declared that egg freezing is no longer considered an experimental procedure.

A safety net

In the study, researchers from the University of North Carolina wanted to find out what age offers the best chance of success if a woman freezes her eggs. They found that on average, women who are 34 or younger have a higher success rate for pregnancy than women age 37 and older.

The results may help women who are looking forward to planning a family in the future, researchers say.

“Maximum fertility – spontaneously, or from egg freezing – is in women under 34,” says infertility specialist Tommaso Falcone, MD, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic.

However, Dr. Falcone says, the best age to freeze for social, non-medical reasons is between ages 34 and 37.

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Dr. Falcone compares egg freezing to insurance.

“You may never need it, but it’s a safety net in case you decide to start a family later in life,” Dr. Falcone says.

For many women, the decision to freeze some eggs may turn on balancing the financial aspects of egg freezing with the hope to achieve a successful pregnancy, he says.

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