As the daughter of a 40-year-old first-time mom, I know firsthand that having kids in one’s 40’s is not only possible, it’s totally normal. Growing up, my parents were always the oldest of all of my friends, though—and sometimes they were far closer in age to friends’ grandparents than parents. Fast-forward 30-plus years, more and more women are postponing motherhood into their 30s or 40s, often quite publicly in the case of celeb mamas. Unfortunately, what’s often not seen is the struggle many women may go through to get pregnant then—but technology may help fewer women go through such a struggle, thanks to a relatively new technique in egg freezing, reports Jennifer Ludden on NPR.
According to a reproductive endocrinologist quoted in the story, by the time a woman reaches her 40s, 90 percent of her eggs are abnormal, and she has just a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant in a given month—unless she uses eggs she had frozen years earlier. The process includes a week of hormones and a procedure to collect the eggs—and costs between $12,000 and $14,000. But, not only might a woman need to undergo the procedure repeatedly to get enough eggs, there are also annual storage fees and then the cost of in vitro fertilization to actually use the eggs. In the end, costs can easily exceed $40,000.
Plus: Fertility Calculator
While U.S. fertility clinics have frozen embryos (eggs fertilized by sperm) for some time, it’s only recently that freezing technology has advanced far enough (courtesy of a flash-freeze method using liquid nitrogen called vitrification) that freezing unfertilized eggs has become an option for some women. But, the technology is still considered experimental and additional study is needed to confirm that the process is safe for the babies born from it. Additionally, it raises the question of if there should be an age limit on when a woman could use her younger eggs, e.g. what would be the impact of a woman in her 50s or 60s using eggs from her 30s?
Plus: When Birth Control Masks Infertility
For now, the fertility specialists interviewed for NPR’s story said that the biggest challenge is reaching out to younger women who may not be thinking about their biological clock quite yet—but who have better eggs now than they will once they finally hear it ticking. Says Ludden, “They envision a time when society considers freezing eggs an act not of desperation but of empowerment.”
If you weren’t ready to have (more) kids just yet, would you consider freezing your eggs in your 20s? 30s?