Freezing Eggs: 5 Things to Know When You Are over 35
Last updated: March 20, 2023
The biological best age to freeze your eggs may be in your early 20s. For many reasons, though, egg freezing isn't the right decision for most women at that age. 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. We delve into the statistics and outline 5 ways to support your chance of success with egg freezing.
Ready for a pregnancy now, rather than egg freezing? Great - these strategies apply to pregnancies, too.
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 are of higher quality and 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 later in life.
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 attempts. That means lower cost and lower stress, too.
What’s the average age of women freezing eggs?
That was the clinical side of egg freezing. The more human reality of egg freezing, though, is that most women who are freezing eggs 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. For many of us, that’s when the gap between what we want in life and where we are in terms of relationships, 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. 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, too, if they think it’s unlikely they’ll be ready for a family within the specified time frame.
Mid- to late 30s can be the best time to freeze eggs
Should you freeze eggs after age 35? That’s a question only you can answer – with help of a fertility doctor with expertise in female age and fertility. Some studies have tried to answer the question broadly.
Even though the biological best age to freeze eggs may be in our mid-20s when egg quality and female fertility are at their peak, some studies that also consider social, economic and legal realities have suggested mid- to late 30s as the best age to freeze eggs. 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. But again - the best timing of egg freezing is a personal one.
What to do when freezing eggs after 35
Hearing that you are past the "best time to freeze your eggs" (or to get pregnant, for that matter) might be discouraging, but there are still ways to support your egg freezing success after 35. Here are specific strategies:
1. Have your ovarian reserve tested.
While everyone’s ovarian reserve naturally 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 reproductive hormones most commonly used to evaluate ovarian reserve - 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.
2. 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.
3. Start taking supplements to support egg health.
Do discuss your supplement list with your doctor, but don’t wait until you are in the midst of egg freezing cycle. To support egg health, start your supplements 2-3 months before your egg freezing cycle. The reason? The eggs go through a maturation process before they reach the ovulation- (or retrieval-) ready stage, and that takes 2-3 months.
- If you are over 35, CoQ10 may help maintain your egg health through its mitochondrial energy support. CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant that may help protect cells from reactive oxygen species and negative reproductive health impact of oxidative stress.
- For some women over 35, a small amount of DHEA may also support ovarian health. DHEA has been used worldwide for almost two decades, since two doctors at a New York City fertility center pioneered its use for women's ovarian health.
- Don’t forget to take multivitamins or prenatal vitamins. While you may not be looking to get pregnant right away, many of the vitamins and minerals in prenatal vitamins - such as iodine, folate and other B vitamins, zinc, Vitamin D and more - have been shown to have multifaceted roles in female reproductive processes, too, so it’s a good idea to add them to your routine while you prepare for egg freezing.
4. Aim for systemic health.
Avoid environmental toxins like BPA, eat "fertility 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.
5. Try to freeze eggs sooner than later.
The reality is that eggs we are born with die off 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 of which are signs of low egg count/health, that’s a signal 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.
If you are ready for a family, we recommend Rebecca Fett's It Starts with the Egg instead - another amazing resource that distills the latest science into a readable, actionable guide.
If you or your healthcare team have any questions, please feel free to reach out. We are with you.
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