Egg freezing: Is it Worth the Cost?
The average age of first time mothers is increasing and given that age is possibly the number one variable that affects fertility, it comes as no surprise that it is likely implicated in many fertility issues among women. If you’re among those who are postponing having children because you’re still studying or aiming for a major career achievement and do not wish to have kids until later, then you should consider that having children later might just be an illusion. After everything, a woman’s ovarian reserve starts to fall after 35 and considerably decreases as she gets older.
Although 75% of women in their thirties will conceive within the first year of trying, the proportion falls to 66% in women in their mid-thirties, 44% in women aged 40 years. Among women trying to get pregnant, 75 percent of 30-year-olds will conceive within a year. After age 40, a woman’s chances of conceiving are drastically decreased.
Now, could egg freezing be the solution for young women who are not ready to start a family?
Can Eggs Be Frozen? When Should You Freeze Your Eggs?
Egg freezing (also known medically as oocyte cryopreservation) is a procedure during which a woman’s eggs are harvested from her ovaries, frozen, and stored. This is usually done by using an egg freezing technique known as vitrification, which ensures that the eggs are not destroyed by ice as they freeze.
First, the eggs are retrieved, a process that can be more grueling than you can imagine. To retrieve a woman’s eggs, the physician has to stimulate her ovaries using hormones. The administration of hormones will cause the development of follicles, a process that has to be followed up using ultrasonography.
Finally, when enough good quality eggs (about 20 or more, especially in older women) have been formed, these are retrieved under general anesthesia. Note that the production of good quality eggs can be easily achieved in younger women compared with those ≥ 35 years. Thus, more than one session might be required in older women, which could not only cause discomfort, but also be expensive.
Egg freezing has become a reliable method of preserving fertility, even in women approaching 40. Unfortunately, as women age, egg quality also declines. By the time a woman is in her forties, up to nine-tenths of her eggs can no longer produce viable embryos. Further, by the time she’s in her mid-forties, her chances of conceiving even with the help of in vitro fertilization decrease to less than five percent. This said, it is much better for a woman to consider freezing her eggs when she’s young (at around the age of 30) to preserve her fertility. Beyond the age of 35, a woman should work on improving the quality of her eggs to increase her chances of conceiving.
Cost of Egg Freezing
The cost varies from one center to another and is certainly different among countries. However, it does not only suffice to choose the clinic that offers the cheapest prices, except you’re on a very tight budget. First, find out whether your physician is board certified by a professional body in your country. Some clinics publish egg freezing statistics as well as their success rates.
Finally, you should review the pricing structure of the clinic to make sure that you understand how you’ll be spending your money. Note that most clinics do not include the cost of hormone stimulation in the bill and you would be required to purchase the medication yourself at a pharmacy.
The following items are typically included in the estimate:
- Initial consultation
- Lab investigations for sexually transmitted infections
- Ultrasound and laboratory monitoring after stimulation
- Egg retrieval
- Yearly egg storage fees (free for the first year at some centers)
- Second cycle (if needed)
Cost Per Cycle
R15,000–26,000 (minus medications, which can cost approximately R12,000)