Considering getting pregnant in your 40s or beyond? You’re not alone.
We all deal with the feeling that we’re not getting any younger, but when it comes to deciding to have children (or not), it can be hard to know what to do next. You may be thinking about having children, but you don’t want to be a parent at this point in your life. Or maybe you’ve already had kids, but want another one – and maybe even more than one!
If you’re thinking about having a baby after 40, you may be surprised to learn that egg freezing at 40 and beyond can help make that happen.
How egg freezing can extend fertility
Egg freezing is a process where mature eggs are collected from a woman or transgender man and frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen. The eggs can then be thawed and fertilized through in vitro fertilization (IVF) to become embryos that can be transferred into one’s uterus or stored for later use. This service is considered fertility preservation.
But there are some things about egg freezing around 40 that aren’t always clear. Here are a few things to consider.
Age and fertility preservation
As one ages, fertility declines. As this happens, there are fewer eggs available for fertilization. Also in decline is the quality of those eggs, which affects their ability to grow into healthy embryos and eventually babies. Egg freezing can typically help address both issues by providing extra eggs of higher quality that can be used later in life if deciding to become pregnant.
However, while egg freezing can be done at any age, it’s best to start early in one’s reproductive life so that more eggs can be frozen before they begin to decline in quality. This is why egg freezing in or around your 40s can be tricky.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, once a woman reaches the age of 40, the chance of conceiving naturally is approximately 5% per month, a drastic decline from 25% per month during our peak fertile years. We can determine a rough estimate of quantity with markers of ovarian reserve, including laboratory and ultrasound testing.
However, current technologies are unable to test egg quality, nor do we have treatments that have been proven to improve the quality of one’s eggs. While some supplements have been suggested to improve egg quality, such as DHEA, coQ10 and omega-3s, data are lacking to support a significant benefit.
Best chance for success with egg freezing at 40
The best way to improve one’s chances of a future healthy pregnancy with egg freezing at 40 or beyond is to plan to bank as many eggs as possible. This means that a person may need to undergo multiple egg retrieval and freezing cycles to maximize the chances of success.
Unfortunately, there is no number of eggs that guarantees a future healthy pregnancy, but research suggests that women aged 38-40 would need approximately 26 eggs frozen to result in a 70% chance of live birth, compared to only 14 eggs for those age 30-34.
There’s also no guarantee that eggs will successfully survive thawing and fertilization. The ASRM–SART practice guideline estimates that the survival rate of oocytes after vitrification and thawing is 90%–97%, the fertilization rate is 71%–79% and the implantation rate is 17%–41%.
More eggs = higher chance of IVF success.
Your fertility, your way
My biggest piece of advice to anyone considering freezing their eggs for future fertility is to take the leap and see a reproductive endocrinologist as soon as possible. They’ll help assess your markers of ovarian reserve and discuss your family building goals in detail.
Remember, time is your most precious resource when growing your family – make the most of it!