“Self-care” is a ubiquitous buzzword that often conjures up images of nail salons, mugs of tea, and serene yoga poses. While these small luxuries can bring you joy, the pleasure they offer is often short-term.
When you consider bringing more self-care into your life, there’s value in looking at your long-term goals as well. Out of love for yourself, what decisions can you make today that will allow future you to thrive?
For some women, one of the best ways to show love to their future selves is by preserving their fertility. This is why egg freezing is so powerful. Women’s bodies can typically carry a baby well into their 40’s or 50’s, but by their late 30’s or early 40’s their egg reserve begins to quickly decline.
Our culture has changed dramatically in recent decades, and women are now opting to not enter into motherhood until a later age. While this is great news for many women’s careers, finances, and relationships, it also means that by the time a woman finally feels prepared to become a mother, she may face an uphill battle with her fertility.
What exactly is egg freezing?
Egg freezing empowers a woman to serve as her own egg donor for her future self. She embarks on the first half of the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process to retrieve as many eggs as she can in one month’s cycle. The eggs are flash-frozen and placed in storage for future use. While a woman will get older, her eggs will stay the same age indefinitely.
What are normal outcomes?
First, let’s explore the range total of eggs you could access in a single freeze cycle. Without any fertility decline, the average woman will likely retrieve 10-20 eggs per cycle.
Every month, your ovaries pull a cohort of eggs out of reserve and then release the best one during ovulation while the other eggs die off. But, during your egg freezing cycle, your doctor will prescribe hormones to tell your body to grow all the eggs that month rather than just one, and then your doctor will retrieve your eggs before you ovulate.
So, will one cycle of egg freezing be enough for you? It depends.
How many children do you want? How old are you? How much are you able to invest in this process? A quick rule of thumb for a woman in her 30’s is to target 10-15 eggs for one live birth, but talk to your doctor, every woman is unique.
This calculator can help make sense of the nuances involved with attempting to answer these questions.
How much will this cost?
On average, women will spend $15,000 per egg freezing cycle. They will also pay $500 annually for storage fees, as well as fertilization and implantation costs when they’re ready to use the eggs.
However, many employers are beginning to provide benefits to help cover these expenses. Explore your benefits to see if they can help with costs.
How confident are you that you will need these eggs because you won’t begin family building until after your late 30’s? If you feel confident that you’re on that timeline, freezing your eggs now for later use will most likely provide a lot of cost savings later when you move forward with trying to have kids at an older age.
Additionally, there are clinics emerging like CNY Fertility which offer significantly more affordable options and support traveling women who don’t live in the cities where the clinics are located.
When’s the ideal time to do this?
In theory, there may be wisdom in freezing your eggs at a very young age; the younger a woman is, the more eggs she will typically retrieve, and the higher their quality.
However, the reality is that the majority of women don’t come back to use their frozen eggs. If a woman freezes her eggs in her early 20’s, she has a very large window of time to meet a potential partner and have children naturally without any fertility complications. Also, at a younger age, she’s likely starting out her career and may lack disposable income for this investment.
Conversely, a woman’s fertility typically begins to decline at 35 and falls rapidly around the age of 40. So, if she’s 37+, she may freeze fewer eggs and need to do several cycles to achieve her goal. Again, this may not be the most financially ideal moment to freeze eggs.
There may be a sweet spot for a woman in her early-to-mid 30’s. At this age, she’s likely to still have a good egg freezing outcome, she’s likely to have more disposable income than a woman in her 20’s, and because she likely hasn’t yet met her partner by the time she’s reached her 30’s, it’s more likely that she’ll actually need these eggs in the next 5-15 years.
Are there any downsides?
It’s well known that IVF is a demanding and costly process for a woman to go through, and egg freezing mirrors the IVF protocol.
It’s an expensive procedure. The majority of women don’t return to use their eggs. And, it’s not an insurance policy. The reality is that each individual egg may have only a 7% chance of resulting in a live birth. So, freezing eggs offers a tangible reason to have hope, but no guarantees.
So, is this self-care?
I’m going to peel back the curtain a bit as an author and reveal that I personally froze 14 eggs when I was 33. I found a doctor who I trusted deeply and who was much more affordable than the national average.
For me, someone who was entering my mid-30’s, who knew I really wanted kids, and who had access to the resources to make this possible, this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have an extreme calm about my decision, it was the right self-care I needed to give myself.
Only you can determine if egg freezing is right for you. Regardless, remember that when you approach the topic of self-care, you are allowed to make decisions beyond just was immediately brings you comfort. Consider how you can show love to your future self and then take action; this is self-care at its finest.