Egg freezing is still a relatively new fertility planning option for women and couples wanting to delay pregnancy for a few years.
We wanted to know more about this fascinating procedure that younger women are opting for to freeze their eggs, then have babies, safely, at a later date.
So we sat down with Dr. Lorna Marshall of Pacific NW Fertility. Dr. Marshall, practicing specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, co-founded the clinic back in 2005 and has been helping couples start or build their families ever since.
In the first part of our conversation with Dr. Marshall, we learned more about the science and history of in vitro fertilization (IVF), fertility medicine, and her own path to reproductive medicine. In part 2, we talked about the cultural changes that come with women and couples having more family planning power.
The number of women seeking family planning options has “shot up through the roof,” Dr. Marshall says, at least in part because some large companies are offering egg freezing as a benefit of employment. How has that changed the demographic of women who are coming in to ask about egg freezing?
Dr. Marshall tells us about the realities of egg freezing. Big one: ya gotta do it when you’re young.
Or to movie stars. Dr. Marshall says not to be confused by celebrities having babies in their late 40s or even early 50s; chances are they used donated eggs, not their own. It’s important to understand the realities of science and bodies, including their limitations.
When woman comes to the clinic, what happens? Dr. Marshall talks about testing, gives us the egg supply explanation, and details the options women have when the results are in.
When it comes to fertility, it’s critical to manage expectations. Doctors may not be able to give a woman an answer to the question, “Will I be able to have a baby with my own eggs?” – there are often too many factors. Find out what impacts fertility and how docs work with women to best reach their goals.
Because the science of vitrification of eggs is still so new, Dr. Marshall says, some things just aren’t known yet, like, do frozen eggs have – for want of a better term – an “implant by” date? What stresses the egg? How long are vitrified eggs viable, and does the faster-freeze process put eggs at risk?
Big tanks hold racks and racks of eggs, sperm, and embryos at the Pacific NW Fertility clinic, Dr. Marshall says. Some fertility clinics don’t store on site, but Dr. Marshall’s clinic has chosen to.
As you can imagine, egg freezing isn’t cheap. And many insurance companies won’t cover “elective” egg freezing. With egg retrieval and the medications it takes to do the process, women can expect to pay $14 – 15,000 for a single cycle. That’s not the cost of establishing a pregnancy, Dr. Marshall reminds us; just the process of freezing.
The best age for freezing eggs may be a woman’s 20s, which is not usually when women have the money to have their eggs frozen. The cost may be changing for cancer patients, at least, Dr. Marshall says, with some state legislatures working to require insurance companies cover fertility preservation. Will insurance ever cover truly elective fertility preservation?
We wanted to know what made Dr. Marshall want to come back to work every day. Her biggest reason probably won’t surprise you, but, she tells us, the growth and changes in the field have also kept her engaged in her work. “I’m in the heart of society, doing this,” she says.
Because this procedure is still so new, it’s important to work with a clinic that’s actually made some babies from frozen eggs, Dr. Marshall says. There are lots of clinics that simply haven’t gotten to the “thawing eggs and making babies” part yet. She lists some questions women should ask before choosing their clinic.
Like much about a woman’s body, her chances of making a baby may be wildly different from another woman’s chances, even at the same age, says Dr. Marshall. She shares with us some estimates of the chances of success based on age of mom and number of eggs retrieved.
Would you consider freezing your eggs in order to delay pregnancy? Why or why not? We’d love to hear your thoughts; please share in the comments section, email us at email@example.com, or let us know on Gennev’s Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, Gennev’s closed Facebook group.