Once reserved for women with serious illnesses, egg freezing has become a way for healthy women to extend their own fertility. In 2013, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the “experimental” label from elective egg freezing — the medical term is oocyte cryopreservation.
In 2018, the American Society of Reproduction’s ethics committee concluded that planned oocyte cryopreservation is an ethically permissible medical treatment. It has now become mainstream care for women who wish to preserve their reproductive potential
If you’re considering elective egg freezing, it’s important to know the ideal age for freezing your eggs, the costs involved, and how age affects the decision.
Unlike embryo freezing, egg freezing doesn’t require a man’s sperm. Oocyte cryopreservation is considered to be an ideal fertility preservation option for single women — the largest category of users of elective, or social, egg freezing, according to a study by Yale University.
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How Many Eggs Do Women Have?
Let’s start at the beginning. Women are born with a finite number of potential eggs, or follicles — approximately one to two million. The number of egg cells decreases each year. By the age of 25, a woman might have only 300,000 egg cells.
During women’s reproductive years, only 300 to 400 eggs will be released through ovulation.
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Is There an Egg Freezing Age Limit?
A woman’s fertility declines with age. That decline accelerates in her late 30s due to a sharp decrease in both the quantity and quality of available eggs. In the decade before menopause, women continue to shed oocytes at an increasing rate. Women in menopause are believed to have 1,000 or fewer eggs remaining in their ovaries.
As women age, their risk of miscarriages, chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, and trouble conceiving increases. To ensure healthy and viable eggs, some fertility experts suggest limiting elective egg freezing to women age 38 and under.
Is There an Ideal Age?
Timing matters for egg freezing and a successful future pregnancy. The optimal age range for egg freezing is between ages 30 and 34, according to a 2015 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility®. The study found little added benefit to freezing eggs between ages 25 and 30. Using predictive modeling, researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC) found oocyte preservation in women younger than age 34 had the highest probability of achieving pregnancy.
What’s the Most Cost-Effective Age?
When to freeze eggs depends not only on your physical health. Your financial situation also can have an impact on the decision. Insurance typically doesn’t cover social egg freezing. When you’re in your 20s or early 30s, you may not be able to afford the out-of-pocket expenses for the procedure and annual cost of storing your eggs.
The UNC model showed that oocyte cryopreservation was most cost-effective at age 37, with a seven-year time frame for attempting pregnancy. If you plan to delay pregnancy until after age 40, a study published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found egg freezing to be most cost effective before age 38.
To learn about your fertility preservation options, call the Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology at 412-641-1000, option 1, or 412-641-7475 to schedule an appointment or talk with one of our fertility preservation experts.
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For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. Nationally recognized in gynecology by U.S. News & World Report, UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.