Ask ELANZA: Is 37 Too Late to Freeze Eggs, Should You Avoid Gluten for Egg Health, and More
Brittany Hawkins and Catherine Hendy, founders of ELANZA Wellness and co-authors of “Everything: Egg Freezing” guide, generously answered questions from our community about their experience preparing to freeze their eggs, sharing the steps and considerations for clinic selection, lifestyle choices to ensure optimal egg quality and more. This Part II of the two-part series includes Brittany and Catherine's advice that’s applicable to women trying to get pregnant, as well as those who are considering egg freezing.
Brittany (right) and Catherine (left) froze their eggs in Cape Town, South Africa, when they were in their 30s. This experience led them to write the egg freezing guide (now in its 2nd edition), sharing with other women the extensive research and in-depth thinking they went through on the journey. As founders of ELANZA Wellness, the two women are now working to improve how women experience fertility care.
What do you wish you knew when starting the process?
Firstly, knowing what truly matters when picking a clinic. It can be really overwhelming to sift through the clinic success rates posted online - especially because there is no actual success metric for egg freezing. If you’re someone that likes to be thorough before making a big decision like this, it can be really hard to know what metrics matter most.
For example, we’ve found from speaking to lots of people about their experiences that proximity (from where you’re staying during the treatment cycle) and the doctor/clinic’s approach to patient care were paramount to a better overall process. Proximity to your home or workplace is key because of all the visits you need to make to the clinic throughout your stimulation cycle (don’t forget about the timing of rush hour in this equation! The last thing you want to feel throughout this process is more stressed).
Also, having a clinic and doctor that really sees you, tries to understand your needs, and spends the time to personalize the process as much as possible. Feeling like you’re in a cattle call is not the way to make the experience better.
Secondly, we really wish we knew about the lifestyle modifications that could optimize our success rates (some research indicates a potential 27% increase!) As well as wanting to know about all opportunities to enhance the quality and quantity of eggs we had retrieved, we really wanted the chance to take back some control during what is overall a bit of an overwhelming process. Even small tweaks to our daily routine in the lead up would have made a difference to both our physical and emotional state.
I’m 37. Is it too late to freeze eggs? How do I decide if it’s too late or not?
Statistically speaking, no, it is not too late to freeze at all!
There is not one single answer to the question “when is it too late?” as it depends who you ask.
If you ask doctors they’ll generally say “around 30” or “before 35” (biologically speaking), but interestingly, researchers have deemed that 37 is actually the best financial age to freeze. After running a cost-benefit analysis, their data found that 37 is the age when we get the most “benefit” out of egg freezing. They rationalized that at age 37 we are young enough for our eggs to still be reasonably fertile, but old enough for the likelihood of using the frozen eggs in the future to go up, making it more worth the price tag. But again, this research makes a lot of assumptions that may not align with your own needs.
Age is just one factor in the overall decision-making process weighed along with all the other factors like costs, your own life plan, your own hormone test results and other health considerations, and your doctor’s advice.
Do birth control pills damage eggs?
The existing research indicates that the birth control pill does not damage fertility.
However, something worth bearing in mind is that taking the Pill is linked to some nutritional deficiencies that can influence fertility. Specifically, studies have shown that oral contraceptives may cause deficiencies in the following: folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. These nutrients are critical for egg quality, so being mindful of a healthy diet and potentially taking a good quality prenatal supplement are extra important if you do take it.
Should I avoid gluten for egg quality?
It’s safe to say that this is a highly under-researched subject so we can’t make any definitive statements.
However, even if you don’t have a known diagnosed medical issue with gluten, it can still create a pro-inflammatory response that could potentially be harmful to your eggs. But this is something generally naturopaths and nutritionists only raise with people who have inflammation-linked conditions. If you want more in-depth guidance on which foods are good for egg quality and which ones should be avoided, you can join the waitlist for “30-day Fertility Optimization Program.”
Should I be taking prenatal vitamins before egg freezing?
It might feel a little strange to see a bottle of “prenatal” vitamins sitting on your kitchen counter, but they are an easy way to get a lot of important nutrients in one shot. Many of the nutrients in prenatal vitamins like the B vitamins and iodine support egg and hormonal health, too. So yes, taking prenatal vitamins is a good idea before egg freezing! In our guide “Everything: Egg Freezing,” we discuss a few other supplements that may help with egg health in certain cases, including CoQ10, melatonin, DHEA and myo-inositol. We also touch on supplements we believe don’t have enough scientific evidence behind them or can be outright harmful. We’ll refer you to the book for more in-depth discussion!
What does it feel like to have your eggs frozen in storage? Was it all worth it?
Relief! All those things you hear were true for us: it felt like a massive weight was lifted off our shoulders and some ticking clock urgency was reduced. Of course, our mothers may feel differently as they are beyond ready for (more) grandchildren, but knowing that we’ve done something proactive and won’t wake up one day blind-sided by our declining fertility felt really good. It doesn’t solve every problem. It’s not guaranteed. But it nudges the odds more in your favor - and that’s why we do it.
Thank you, Brittany and Catherine, for taking the time to answer these questions about egg freezing and egg quality! And as always, if you have any questions, please reach out - we are with you.
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