Facts to consider when contemplating this growing trend
During their 20s and early 30s, many women find themselves on busy, career-driven paths that leave little time for relationships or the thought of children. There is also a growing trend in Solo Moms deciding to expand their families on their own. This is causing many women in their late 30s and 40s to turn to egg freezing as an option for family planning. But what are your choices and options if you are choosing to become a Solo Mom via egg freezing? And what age is too late?
Fertility centers are filled with current and potential Solo Moms looking to fulfill their dreams of becoming a parent now or in the near future. Many of these women have similar stories. Either there isn’t a potential partner in sight, and they don’t want to wait to find out that they are not fertile anymore when the timing is right; or they are ready to have a baby on their own now and plan to use a sperm donor to fertilize their eggs in the near future.
Freezing eggs for the future is a growing trend. An estimated 5,000 women nationwide are using this medical technology each year, and it’s increasing, according to Dr. Daniel Shapiro, medical director of the egg bank at the Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta. Women feel safer knowing they have an assured chance at motherhood. But is that really the case? At what cost? And what can go wrong? Let’s look at some issues and possibilities to consider:
Your eggs may not be viable
Shapiro estimates that women freezing their eggs between the ages of 32 and 35 have a 40% to 50% chance of achieving a pregnancy. Women freezing eggs between the ages of 35 and 38, have a rate of 35%. If you freeze at 39 or 40, it’s down to 20% to 25%. Many doctors won’t freeze eggs in patients over 40 since the rate can be less than 10% for a viable pregnancy. A doctor can administer a test that looks at the anti-mullerian hormone to help predict your fertility level and determine if the procedure will be worthwhile.
How much will it cost?
First, it’s an expensive endeavor. Most insurance companies don’t cover any of the medication or the procedure. Private doctors and centers charge between $5,000 and $15,000 per cycle, and some women need more than one cycle to produce enough healthy eggs. You can offset your medication pricing by doing some research online. Many of the medications can be found for a wide variety of pricing, so it’s best to look around before you send in a prescription. ESME has a great article, “Unscrambling the Eggs,” to help the savvy budgeter offset the prescription costs.
How do I choose where to have my eggs frozen?
My advice is to ask the potential doctor or center you are considering to show you their current data. Ask questions as to how many patients have had successful egg freezing and how many eggs were harvested each cycle. You will also want to know about the survival rate when thawing eggs.
Other things to note
Once you decide to freeze your eggs, there are a few more things to think about to help you plan for your future. There is always the possibility that your eggs won’t survive the thawing process. Sometimes the sperm will not create a viable embryo, and a larger possibility is that the embryo may not implant successfully in the uterus. Have you thought about your choices moving forward if you are left in this position? Adoption and surrogate pregnancy are options for many women looking to start a family when faced with unsuccessful harvesting and implantation.
According to Shady Grove Fertility, 36 of their patients had live births from a total of 98 thaw cycles from women of varying ages. On average 36.7% of women had a chance of an ongoing pregnancy or live birth by IVF using frozen eggs. At New York University, the numbers were between 42% to 33% depending on the woman’s age. Since doctors encourage freezing upwards of 20 eggs for each desired pregnancy, many women in their late 30s may be looking at three or more cycles of medication and harvesting. This is a huge amount of time, money, and effort. Total costs can be around $40,000. The financial burden alone may put many women out of the game, no matter their age.
Another question is “when is it too late?” This comes down to a few factors. How much time, money, and risk are you willing to put into becoming a Solo Mom? If you are looking to freeze eggs as an insurance policy against time, remember that your chances of a viable pregnancy are small. For many women, including myself, the pregnancy rate is enough of a window to justify going through with the procedure. Amongst us, there are plenty of women looking to become parents right away because the timing feels right or their fertility is dwindling. Egg freezing may be the only option for some, but there are other ways to become pregnant that may be more viable and easier to achieve a positive outcome.
In the end, it is clear that after the age of 40, egg freezing is not likely something you should consider, according to the research on fertility and egg health and resulting age limits imposed by doctors. The eggs don’t often survive the harvesting, thawing, and implantation.
If you are a looking to become a Solo Mom, or are interested in having more children as a Solo Mom, here are several books I would recommend as you make decisions:
- Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide by Mikki Morrissette (Mariner Books, 2008)
- Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood by Jane Mattes (Harmony, 1994)
- Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem, a Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom by Louise Sloan (Avery, 2007)
- Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families by Wendy Kramer and Naomi Cahn (Avery, 2013)
You can find more information in our Assisted Reproductive Technology Resource Section. ESME is here to support you regardless of your route to becoming a Solo Mom.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.