Do you feel your baby clock ticking? Can we buy more time? Egg freezing – is it really an option?


by Rachel Burt, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Roswell OB/GYN…………………………………

I recently read the Wall Street Journal article written by Sarah Elizabeth Richards who explains why she decided to freeze her eggs. I thought it was excellent for several reasons.  As a women’s health care provider, I am acutely aware of women’s ticking fertility clocks. As we all know, our eggs age with us.  At age 30, the chance each month of getting pregnant is about 20 percent.  It is hard to believe, but even with a perfect menstrual cycle our chances of conception each month at age 30 is just about one in five.  At age 40, your chances go down to approximately 5 percent each month. Unfortunately, each woman’s eggs age at a different rate.  We cannot predict when age related infertility issues will begin for each woman.  Although some women may be able to conceive spontaneously into their early 40s, others may start having trouble in their 30s.  I understand the sense of betrayal and frustration a woman feels with her body when she sees her friend is able to conceive spontaneously at 35 whereas she is struggling through fertility treatments to attempt pregnancy.

I start talking about pregnancy planning with my patients who are in their 30s.  Our world has changed so much for women.  We have so many incredible career opportunities.  As we all know, our opportunities for career advancement, greater responsibility, and leadership become reality in our 30s and 40s.  The way our current work environment is structured, we all know it takes full focus and commitment to excel to the top of our careers. In response to the career demands, some women in relationships may decide to delay starting a family. We also see a trend in women marrying later in life which leads to delayed childbearing. For some women, the story ends well.  They are able to find a perfect mate, marry, and spontaneously conceive later in life.  For other women, they might encounter challenges.  Women in their late 30s and early 40s might find themselves in the perfect time in life to start a family, however their eggs might have passed their peak.

Is egg freezing our answer?  Richards suggests freezing our eggs can buy more time from our biological clock.  She suggests it takes pressure off women in the dating scene trying to find the right mate without being influenced by the baby timeline.  She also suggests it allows women to take control and wait until they are in the right place in their lives to have children.  It is a great option for women, however we also need to address the big picture.  I agree we need individual solutions for a current problem.  However, as Anne Maire Slaughter addressed in last year’s Atlantic Monthly article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” , our culture needs to change to be more supportive to women as professionals and mommies.  Frozen eggs provide an excellent opportunity for women who for whatever reason need to delay childbearing, but it is not the perfect solution. Frozen eggs provide similar live birth success rates to women having IVF at the age the egg was frozen.  My fear is that women in good relationships will delay childbearing because of a false sense of security in their frozen eggs.  Freezing your eggs provides a great option for women who are not in the right situation now, but pregnancy chances are still highest the old fashion way.

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