Egg freezing 101: Will I regret my decision to freeze my eggs?
Egg freezing is becoming more popular as an “insurance” against future fertility issues. But if you’re not facing any immediate threats to your fertility (such as medical treatment, like chemotherapy), it can be a tough decision. There are many factors to consider, including convenience and cost. But what about regret? Is there a chance that—after going through the physical toll of egg stimulation and retrieval, and paying thousands to tens of thousands of dollars—you’ll wish you hadn’t?
How common is it to regret egg freezing?
Statistically speaking, most patients who freeze their eggs don’t regret their decision.[1,2] The minority who do attribute their regret to a low number of frozen eggs stored and a lack of supportive counselling by their healthcare providers. Finding a clinic that best suits your needs can help you feel more confident about your choice.
What if I don’t freeze enough eggs?
When deciding whether to freeze your eggs, you might feel anxious about your chances of success, worrying that if you freeze too few eggs, you’ll have gone through all this stress and spent all this money for nothing. So what is the “optimal” number of eggs to freeze? Because elective egg freezing is still so new, not many patients have gone back to use their frozen eggs yet, which means there’s unfortunately little data to guide your decision.
That said, we know there’s a higher chance of regret when 10 or fewer eggs are frozen. Ten frozen eggs might be enough for younger patients (35 years old or younger at the time of egg retrieval) to ensure a reasonable chance of success (60 to 75 percent chance of having at least one baby).[3,4] Generally, those who are over 35 at the time of egg retrieval will need more frozen eggs than younger patients, but the specific numbers are less clear for this age group. Research suggests that, for patients under 38, having at least 20 frozen eggs may be preferred to yield a 75 percent chance of having a baby, and this goes up to 25 to 30 frozen eggs for patients between the ages of 38 and 40. The chances of eggs frozen after the age of 40 leading to a baby being born is much lower. Also, because egg count decreases with age, it may be more difficult to retrieve 20 to 30 eggs from older patients in a single cycle. This is important to consider when making your decision, as it might impact the timing of your egg retrieval and how much money you budget for it.
While these guidelines are helpful, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no magical number that guarantees a baby. Patients may feel distressed if a low number of eggs are retrieved and frozen, but quantity does not equal quality—any of those eggs could still lead to a healthy baby. On the flip side, a high number of eggs retrieved and frozen may lull some into a false sense of security about their chances and could also come with a heavy financial burden. Ultimately, if you decide to freeze your eggs, hope for the best but prepare for the worst—no matter the number of eggs in your bank.
What if I never use my eggs?
Most patients with banked eggs have not yet returned to use them. Many would prefer to continue waiting until they find a partner, while others have gotten pregnant without needing to use their frozen eggs. Also noted, though less common, is the decision to no longer pursue parenthood. If you’re considering egg freezing, you’re likely pretty sure that you’d like to have kids in the future, when the time and circumstances feel right. But life is unpredictable. There is a possibility that your circumstances could change sooner than you expect, and you might find yourself not needing to use your frozen eggs. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how things may change in a few months, a year, five years, or longer. Egg freezing is a great option for having a sense of freedom and control over your life.
What can you do about your unused eggs? One option is donating frozen eggs to others experiencing infertility, depending on the age at which the eggs were retrieved and the country. Egg donation programs often have age limits, some stricter than others, but 34 is the maximum for most. Other options include donation for research and discarding the banked eggs. The availability of and regulations around these options in your country are worth looking into before starting.
How to decide whether to freeze your eggs?
If you take the time to learn all about what the process of egg freezing looks like and maintain realistic expectations, you probably won’t regret your decision to freeze your eggs. Regret often stems from a lack of open communication about your options with your care providers—and unlike the number and quality of your eggs, this is something you have some level of control over. Most importantly, don’t place all your eggs in this one basket. Take the time to explore all the options available to you, whether that means looking into sperm donors or adjusting your timeline for starting a family.
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