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How to Navigate "Egg Freezing FOMO"

Egg freezing is a great option for some. But is it a great option for you?

Source: iStock/DGLimages

When the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Ethics Committee removed the “experimental” label from egg freezing in 2012, they validated the science behind women’s opportunity to preserve and extend their ability to have genetic children on their own timeline. Dr. Alan Copperman, a fertility physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said of the decision at the time:

“There is nothing ‘elective’ about egg freezing. Fertility preservation via egg freezing is rapidly becoming a standard part of today’s preventative medicine. Oocyte vitrification (egg freezing) provides a real opportunity for women to someday become biological parents.”

Now, eight years on, many see egg freezing as the "thing to do"—and may experience feelings of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) if they don’t.

Why Egg Freezing Can Trigger FOMO

Researchers have found that people say egg freezing takes the pressure off several decisions that are otherwise affected by pregnancy. Perhaps their biological clock says one thing, but the bank account says something else—or they don’t have a partner yet, or their current partner isn’t ready. Maybe they want to finish grad school, pay off student loans, build work stability, get over a breakup, or take care of their aging parents before taking on a child.

Egg freezing thus allows people to catch up to (or pursue) their goals without worrying as much about their reproductive system. Who knows what life will be like ten years down the line? It’s better to try to give yourself the option of a frozen egg reserve, many women reason, before you realize you want children and it’s too late.

Julie Hunt, who herself works in the fertility healthcare field, says she was advised by her physician to freeze her eggs. She also told me that when she’s out with friends, and the topic of her egg freezing comes up, they get stressed.

“I think it reminds them that their biological clocks are ticking and that others are doing something about it," she says. "I know that a lot of them aren’t ready to start a family yet, but they’re not sure they want to go through the procedures and their employers don’t offer coverage for egg freezing, or they can’t afford it. They up feeling like they are missing out."

But should everyone be freezing their eggs voluntarily, just in case? Are they really missing out? Although some consider it their mission to encourage all young women to freeze eggs, it’s a medical procedure that’s not for everyone.

Is Egg Freezing Right for You?

Let’s go through five main considerations when thinking about freezing your eggs :

  1. Consider your age. According to the ASRM, egg freezing is most successful when you are in your twenties and early thirties because that’s when egg quality is still at its best. Your ovarian reserve (number of viable eggs in your ovaries) is usually sufficient, and its response to the medication is strong.
  2. Consider your future needs. It takes about 10-15 eggs to produce one child, and the older you are, the more eggs you might need because of diminished egg quality. So, more than one round of egg freezing may be necessary. This will of course take time and money, but egg freezing betters your odds of having a child later in life.
  3. Consider the procedure. Your physician will first prescribe 9 to 12 days worth of medications that stimulate your ovaries to create multiple mature eggs. You will have several monitoring appointments to check on the response of your ovaries and hormone levels. When your eggs are mature, you will self-administer a trigger shot to finish the maturation at a precise time, around 36-37 hours before your retrieval procedure. Then, under sedation, your doctor will aspirate each egg follicle and freeze the mature eggs through vitrification.
  4. Consider the odds. Egg freezing may sound like a sure thing, but not all eggs will survive the thawing process in the future, not all will be viable, and not every embryo will implant. And then there’s the sperm—not all are created equal when it comes to fertility! ASRM advises caution when using egg freezing to defer childbearing. There is no guarantee that freezing your eggs will result in a successful pregnancy in the future.
  5. Consider the eggs. Let’s say you freeze eggs and then proceed to get pregnant without those eggs. They were “just in case” and you thankfully didn’t need them. The decision about the disposition of unused eggs, for some, is the hardest part of egg freezing. Should you pay to maintain them although they are not embryos? Discard them, as they are discarded by our body every month? Donate them to an infertile recipient? To scientific research? And what are the legal requirements and limits of each option? Speaking to your doctor, a counselor, and/or lawyer may help you decide.

Planned oocyte cryopreservation may not be a sure thing, or even your thing, but knowing it is available can help you make decisions about your future whether it be extended education, career development, family building, and financial security. FOMO may lead you to gather information and consulting a fertility specialist, but only careful and rational decisions should move you forward.

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