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For women who hope to have children someday, the biological clock ticks louder as time goes on. Your concerns about waning fertility grow, your mom’s questions become more pointed, and your dating life gets more fraught. Modern medicine offers hope in the form of egg freezing, but is this difficult, uncertain and expensive process worth it? Here are four considerations:
When Will You Have Kids?
Fertility falls throughout your 20s and starts to drop off more dramatically after age 31; but don’t worry if you’re older than that. Plenty of women have kids in their 30s and infertility problems are unusual before age 35. After that, about one in four women will have trouble getting pregnant, and by age 40, her chances of conceiving are less than 5 percent per cycle. Ask yourself how likely it is you’ll want to have children in your 40s. Currently, about 19 percent of U.S. women in their early 40s have no children yet. You’re more likely to end up in this group if you’re highly educated, with a graduate or professional degree, you have an annual family income between $50,000 and $75,000 (if your family income is lower, or much higher, you’re more likely to have kids by your early 40s), among other factors.An additional 13.3 percent of U.S. women have their first child at 35 or older. Many women in this group might be over 40 by the time they are ready to give that first child a sibling. Among U.S. women who have children, 78 percent end up having more than one. Is it possible you’ll want one more sweet-smelling little baby to raise, even as you’re approaching middle age? And ponder (then perish the thought!) that you could possibly lose your partner to death or divorce. You might want to try to have a baby with a new partner later on. Having eggs on ice can offer you additional chances to bear children after your declining natural fertility makes it a lot more difficult.
Your Current Age Affects the Number of Eggs & Cost
If you are under 35, you don’t need to rush off to the fertility clinic just yet - especially if you’re in a hopeful relationship or are not entirely sure you want kids at all. One exception is if you’re a younger woman who definitely wants kids, and you are pretty sure it can’t happen until your late 30s or 40s—perhaps because you’re in medical school or devoted to a demanding career. In this case, look into egg freezing sooner rather than later. The younger you are when you undergo the process, the better quality your eggs will be and you might produce more of them too. That means potentially fewer costly cycles to undergo, and better chances to get pregnant when you try to use them.
If you are 35 or older, and hope to bear any children after age 40 - your first or your fifth - freezing your eggs may be a very smart decision. A recent study in the journal Fertility and Sterility found it was more cost-effective for a woman to freeze her eggs at age 35 and use them to get pregnant in her 40s, rather than try to conceive naturally at that age. Another study found it was most cost-effective to freeze eggs at age 37.
The Cost of Egg Freezing (And How You’ll Come Up With the Money)
The full cost of a cycle of oocyte cryopreservation (the medical term for egg freezing) which takes about two weeks, can range from $9,000 to $16,000. This includes pricey medications you’ll probably need to inject yourself with, and numerous clinic visits to assess your hormone levels as the cycle progresses. It also includes the egg retrieval process, which involves brief sedation and recovery. It does not include the money you will need to thaw and fertilize the eggs and implant the embryos when you are ready to get pregnant. Many women require more than one cycle to produce the 20 or so eggs experts suggest you should bank for a good chance of a future pregnancy. In addition, you will pay an annual storage fee, usually $350-$1,000, to keep your eggs safely frozen. Most health insurance plans do not cover the egg freezing process or annual storage fees, though they may cover some of the tests required and some of the medications. Check with your own plan to understand your benefits. An example of how this might play out: A 35-year-old woman undergoes two cycles of egg freezing and produces 20 eggs which she will use to get pregnant at age 42. Her costs, up to the point of thawing, and assuming no help from insurance but possible discounts on multiple cycles (which are increasingly common), would be between $21,000 and $37,000.
If you don’t have that sort of cash lying around, some fertility clinics can help you line up financing. Certain healthcare-focused financial institutions offer loans for qualified women who want to freeze their eggs. Average annual interest rates are about 15 percent, and the repayment period can be as long as seven years. (Don’t worry, they can’t confiscate your eggs even if you fall on hard times and default on your loan! Though doing so would definitely hurt your credit score.) One way to justify the expense? Studies show that women can increase their career earnings by delaying having a baby. One researcher found that waiting just one year longer increased a woman’s lifetime earnings by 10 percent.
Which Fertility Clinic to Use
Most fertility clinics do not publish their success rates for egg freezing and subsequent pregnancies, because the procedure is relatively new, and many women have not yet come back for their eggs. However, you can get a sense of a clinic’s experience and efficacy by checking their IVF results published by The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Also, check in with any friends who’ve undergone any fertility treatments themselves in your area. They can offer the inside scoop on the general ambiance and attitude at a clinic, which can either soothe or stress you during a vulnerable time.
For women approaching 35, who anticipate wanting to give birth in their 40s, egg freezing may make sense if you can find room for it in your budget. Though successful pregnancies from frozen eggs are never guaranteed, having the option can lessen your stress about fertility and let you focus on more important aspects of life, including great careers and healthy relationships. We insure our health, our cars, and our homes, why not also insure our fertility through egg freezing?