The biological best age to freeze your eggs may be in your early 20s, but egg freezing isn't the right decision for most women at that age for many reasons. A vast majority of women who decide to freeze eggs do so in their 30s, about half of them after 35. While freezing eggs after 35 has its drawbacks, not all is lost. Here, we delve into the statistics and outline 5 ways to still improve your chance of success with egg freezing.
What is the best age to freeze your eggs?
Clinically speaking, the best time to freeze your eggs is when your fertility is at peak. Eggs frozen when you are in your mid-20s have a higher potential for future pregnancy. That means you’ll need to freeze fewer eggs to have the same chance of pregnancy than you’d need to if you were freezing eggs when your eggs have already started declining in quality. Younger women also produce more eggs after ovarian stimulation. So, that means you’d need fewer ovarian stimulation cycles and egg retrievals in order to have the same number of eggs frozen. Taken together, in your 20s, you’d be freezing higher-quality eggs in fewer egg freezing cycles, and that means less out-of-pocket costs for you, too.
What’s the average age of women freezing eggs?
That’s the clinical side of egg freezing. The more human reality of egg freezing, though, is that most women who are freezing eggs for future use now are in their 30s, like Brittany Hawkins and Catherine Hendy, who wrote the comprehensive guide to egg freezing, Everything: Egg Freezing. In fact, just a few years ago, the average age of women freezing eggs in New York City was above 38. CNBC reported that the average age has come down to 35 in 2018 in the United States, compared to 38 in 2016, but most women are still freezing eggs in their 30s – that’s whey the gap between what we want in life and where we are in terms of relationship, career and more, comes into sharper focus – and frankly, that’s when we might finally have the financial wherewithal to act.
While this is not the case in the United States, some European countries impose storage limit for eggs once they are cryopreserved, too. For example, in the UK, women must use their frozen eggs within 10 years, and the time limit is even shorter at 5 years in Sweden. Those storage limits may dissuade younger women from freezing eggs, if they think it’s unlikely they’ll be ready for a family within the specific time frame.
Does it make sense to freeze eggs in my mid- or late 30s?
Should you freeze eggs after age 35? That’s a question only you – with help of a fertility doctor with expertise in female age and fertility – can answer. Even though the biological best age to freeze eggs may be in our mid-20s when female fertility is at peak, some studies that also consider social, economic and legal realities we live in have suggested mid- to late 30s as the best age to freeze egg. One example is this 2015 study. Comparing the probability of live birth with or without egg freezing at different ages, it found the largest benefit when women froze eggs at age 37. In short, there is no one answer that fits everyone.
What to do when freezing eggs after 35
Hearing that you are past the best time to freeze your eggs might be discouraging, and there’s no getting around the fact of our biological decline as we age. There are, however, still ways to optimize your egg freezing success after 35. The general advice to maximize your chance of success with egg freezing still applies, but here are those more specific to women in their mid- to late 30s.
Have your ovarian reserve tested.
While everyone’s ovarian reserve declines with age, the speed of decline is unique to each woman, so it’s important to know your own.
- This should include anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), the two fertility hormones most commonly used to evaluate the number and health of your eggs in the ovaries. Estradiol is also helpful, to put FSH levels in context.
- Your OBGYN doctor can do these tests for you, and they can also let you know where you stand.
- If you are on a hormonal birth control, or just recently stopped using one, you may not get an accurate picture of your ovarian reserve from blood tests for a few months, as this type of birth control artificially creates a menopause-like status to prevent pregnancies.
Select a fertility center with expertise in women 35 and up.
Even better, if the center focuses on women over 40 and have good pregnancy rates in this group of women, that’s a good sign that the clinical team knows how to optimize treatment protocols for women whose ovarian function is not at their peak.
- To get a sense of the age distribution of each fertility center, head to Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. This professional organization reports on the vast majority of IVF centers in the United States in an age-stratified way, as well as a national average. Look at the number of IVF cycles the center performs in your age group, as well as the live birth rates.
- Take the ovarian reserve test results with you when you talk to fertility centers you are considering for your egg freezing. These results will help you and the doctors have more concrete discussions about how they may or may not be able to help you achieve your goal.
Start taking supplements to support egg health against age-related decline.
Do discuss them with your doctor, but don’t wait until you are in the midst of egg freezing; supplements to support egg development have to be in place when the egg maturation takes place, and that can be a 2-3 months process until eggs are ready for ovulation or retrieval. Other supplements may require a similar length of supplementation to build up in your system to an effective level.
- If you are over 35, CoQ10 may help boost the amount of cellular energy available to your maturing eggs. When eggs go through the maturation process before they are retrieval-ready, they require energy to arrange, then separate, the chromosomes properly. A proper level of cellular energy facilitates this delicate process and lowers the risk of eggs with chromosomal problems. (It’s also an antioxidant that protects cells from reactive oxygen species.)
- For some women over 35, a small amount of DHEA may also help with egg quality. For more detail, head to our explainer on CoQ10 and DHEA for fertility after 35.
- Don’t forget to take multivitamins or prenatal vitamins. While you may not be looking to get pregnant anytime soon, many of the vitamins and minerals in prenatal vitamins and women’s multivitamins have been shown to have multifaceted roles in female reproductive processes, too, so it’s not a bad idea to add them to your routine while you prepare for egg freezing.
Aim for systemic health.
Avoid environmental toxins like BPA, eat healthy, stay active and get enough, high-quality sleep. All of these have been shown to have a positive effect on fertility, not to speak of your overall physical and emotional health.
Try to freeze eggs as soon as you can.
The reality is that eggs we are born with are depleted every month, and what remains loses their pregnancy potential as we age. Especially if your ovarian reserve testing comes back with low AMH or high FSH/estradiol, both a sign of low egg count/health, that’s a sign that you may need to move up egg freezing in your calendar.
Last, but not least
We also highly recommend the Everything: Egg Freezing book, mentioned earlier. Not really because we sell the book here, but because it’s a really amazing resource for anyone considering egg freezing: Science-driven, action-orientated and imminently readable. Buy it here!
If you or your healthcare team have any questions, please feel free to reach out. We are here for you.