Egg freezing (Oocyte cryopreservation) is a safe and well-established procedure to help ensure that your reproductive options remain open. Oocyte cryopreservation involves the extraction and freezing of a female’s eggs, to preserve their viability for future use. This is often due to social or medical reasons such as wanting to focus on a career, pursuing educational goals, or undergoing cancer treatment.
If you are considering egg freezing and want to understand your current fertility status, scheduling a fertility assessment is the first step.
During your initial consultation, fertility specialists will:
- Review your medical history and discuss any relevant factors that may impact your fertility.
- Conduct a comprehensive evaluation, which may include blood tests, ultrasounds, or other diagnostic tests, to assess your ovarian reserve and overall fertility health.
- Discuss the egg freezing process in detail, including potential risks, success rates, and what to expect during each step.
- Address any questions or concerns you may have about the procedure, ensuring that you feel confident and well-informed about your decision.
- Provide a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals, including a detailed cost breakdown and financing options.
Fertility preservation costs vary depending on the fertility clinic, but are usually around:
- $10,000 to extract and freeze the eggs.
- $300 per year to store them.
So far, no provincial health plans cover the cost to freeze eggs, though Ontario does offer coverage for one round of IVF and tax credits for IVF drugs.
Ovarian reserve – what is it and is there a test?
Ovarian reserve is a term often used to describe a woman’s reproductive potential with respect to ovarian follicle number and egg (oocyte) quality. At birth, the number of eggs a woman has falls to 1-2 million, and at puberty, only 300,000-500,000 eggs remain. From puberty though to menopause, it is estimated women will ovulate about 400-500 total eggs.
Common ovarian reserve testing looks at the FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estradiol level, AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone), and antral follicle count (AFC). This test reviews the egg quantity, not quality, which declines with age and is a good indicator as to where you stand with the number of eggs that can be collected.
In one case, I reviewed results for a 22-year-old women who had an AMH of 4.8. (let’s call her Anne for the purpose of this blog).
We repeated Anne’s AMH twice and both times the results were very low. This could be a sign of many internal issues, but the biggest one I was concerned about was her own ovarian result. I realized pre-qualifying these women for egg donation couldn’t simply be a yes or no for them. I couldn’t just tell them, “Sorry, you don’t qualify.” I had an ethical responsibility to ensure these women had proper follow up and advice given for how they could investigate their own hormone health themselves. I had this specific donor meet with one of my fertility doctors in order to understand what her options were.
What does a low AMH really mean? In the grand scheme of fertility an AMH of 4.8 still means she can get pregnant. But this young woman had no intention of having kids anytime soon. She was 22 and just starting her career. As women, age has a huge impact on our number of eggs and quality of eggs. At menopause our AMH will deplete completely and drop to zero. This means we have no eggs left to use. So as Anne gets older, the level of her AMH will decrease further. Her levels were already indicative of diminished ovarian reserve.
I got to wondering why there was so little education with young women in high school about their own fertility. Anne knew nothing about AMH and how at 22 years old she wasn’t just destined to be fertile. Women are hammered with information about birth control options and STIs until they are scared to even kiss someone, but unless they take academic biology course and want to continue in health sciences, it’s unlikely they will ever learn much about their own hormones and fertility health. This is how the system is failing women. Why are family doctors not putting this on the agenda for discussion when young women go in for regular pap tests? Why is there no regular hormonal bloodwork as part of a health workup?
Where do young women learn about their fertility health?
The answer is scary – they learn about it when it becomes a problem. When they try to have children and can’t, they end up in a consultation with a family doctor who will refer her out to an OBGYN and eventually a fertility doctor if needed. Why is hormone health not addressed in young women as they develop through puberty? Even if having children is not a priority at a young age, at best women may need to learn the signs and understand how regular check ins with their doctor would be important as they age.
Women should know at a young age that fertility isn’t guaranteed.
A young woman needs to begin with education and learn about fertility health. If donating your eggs is desired, learning about hormones, and knowing that preserving your eggs is now an option for anyone who wants to focus on careers and worry about children later in life. The struggle is educating women in understanding how to act for themselves and find out if egg preservation is a priority for them.
The system needs to change for women.
Women find themselves in their late 30’s searching for an egg donor and egg preservation should be offered to all women before it becomes too late.
Evolution Eggs and Canadian Surrogacy Community
In just over two years, I began Evolution Eggs, an organization that helps with egg donation – and I own a sister company, Canadian Surrogacy Community, a surrogacy agency designed to assist intended parent(s) from around the world.
“It made sense to have the option for a one-stop-shop for people needing help with creating embryos and finding a surrogate. These two companies build relationships from the ground up.”
Angela (Founder & Director) is a three-time gestational surrogate from Exeter, Ontario who has given birth to three healthy baby boys. Angela worked as a surrogacy support and intake worker at another agency, as well as being involved in the surrogacy community for the past seven years. She’s built a network of friends and professionals in the industry and wanted to utilize that to help create families as a facilitator. She has an education in Psychology and English and has spent years working for the local school board helping students with behaviours and special needs.
Fertility Friends Foundation is here to make a difference!