2016! It's a new year and a great time to make resolutions that will help you achieve future goals. Goals are very different from person to person -- losing a few unwanted pounds, saving more money, traveling more, or getting that promotion at the office, to name a few.
While you know you want to have a family someday -- this just might not be the right time. In fact, a recent survey, Infertility in America, found that a majority of Millennials are not planning to start having children until their mid-30s. This is much later than the peak "biological" age of fertility, which is in your 20s.
Right now the speed of life is fast, but it doesn't mean you can't plan ahead. Fortunately, there's a way to help keep your options open as life races forward. Fertility preservation offers women a safe and effective way to freeze or preserve eggs at their current age in order to help maximize their fertility in the future.
- The average woman is born with 1-2 million eggs.
- By the time you start puberty that number drops to 300,000-500,000 and by age 37, a woman's egg reserve can drop to as low as 25,000.
- It's not just about quantity, it's about quality: By the time a woman is 35 years old, her egg quality significantly decreases leading to an increased risk of genetic and fertility issues.
Consider ovarian screening tests
Women considering freezing their eggs have options that make it simple for an OB/GYN or fertility specialist to evaluate the ovarian reserve, or remaining pool of eggs. It's important to note, however, that these tests only measure a current moment in time - they do not predict the length of time until the pool of eggs is depleted, nor can they perfectly predict fertility.
- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A blood test that measures hormone levels and can help indicate the status of a woman's ovarian reserve.
- Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH): A protein hormone that can be measured in the blood at any time in the menstrual cycle as a marker for ovarian reserve.
- Pelvic Ultrasound: Evaluates basal antral follicle count (BAFC), which estimates how many eggs are resting in the ovaries.
The egg freezing process
Initially, egg freezing was introduced to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy preserve their fertility. However, as women began looking for new ways to ensure they could start families later in life, they turned to egg freezing as a way to halt egg-aging-related infertility. In 2012, the "experimental" label for egg preservation was removed because of new scientific advancements that dramatically improved success rates - vitrification, a process that involves rapid freezing.
The vitrification process allows eggs to be instantly frozen in a way that preserves egg quality and limits the risk of damage being done during the freezing and thawing process. Furthermore, this allows the egg to remain frozen indefinitely - up until they are needed.
The egg freezing process takes approximately 10 days and includes hormone injections, regular monitoring and the actual egg retrieval which takes less than 30 minutes. The average woman can expect approximately six eggs from the procedure.
What to know first
- Do your research: Select a reputable lab with the latest technology and best-in-class techniques.
- Check how experienced the lab is with egg preservation, and make sure they are adept at the latest vitrification or freezing processes.
- Eggs are fragile; not all eggs will survive. A good embryology lab will handle the precious cargo with care and expertise.
You don't need to plan your life around having kids - life moves too fast for that. But if having a family may be part of a future New Year's resolution, fertility preservation can help you wait until the time is right for you.