Becoming a Mother: How Old is Too Old?
Recent breakthroughs in egg-freezing technology may be a game changer for age-related infertility. As a woman profiled in a recent Vogue article on the topic says, “oocyte cryopreservation” is freeing her from the “tyranny of the expiration date” of being able to have children.
How it works: A woman can spend about $15,000 to be injected with hormones to stimulate the release of lots of eggs. The eggs are frozen with a flash-freezing process called vitrification, then put in a cryogenic vat until she wants to use them. When she does, she will go through the IVF process, but with younger eggs, thus enhancing the chances of getting pregnant.
And it seems the odds are good. Recent studies indicate that the “birthrate in IVF procedure using frozen eggs extracted from women under the age of 36 is now close to 50 percent—comparable to ‘fresh eggs’ from women that age."
Pros: More women are waiting longer to start having kids, which often creates fertility problems. At age 40, more than half will not be able to conceive without help, and by 44 even with IVF, only about 5% end up being able to conceive. In a word, the eggs just get old.
But freezing the eggs keeps them young, and when you use them in the IVF process, it creates better odds of conceiving.
The Issues: Some doctors worry that it may give women too much of a false sense of security. It may take more than one hormone injecting cycle to produce enough eggs to be “reasonably sure” of a single pregnancy. And even when the woman uses them down the road, there is no guarantee they will be able to make viable embryos.Continued on the next page