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Should Your Freeze Your Eggs at 40?
February 5, 2013
The media portrays an image of female fertility that extends well beyond the age of 35. Celebrities like Madonna, Salma Hayek, and Mariah Carey have all given birth in their 40s- some naturally and some with the help of assisted reproductive technology (ART). As a result, studies are finding women are grossly misinformed about their fertility, and frequently overestimate the number of reproductive years that lie ahead of them.
Our fertility reaches its peak sometime between our late teens and early 20s, long before we can mentally grasp the concept of reproducing with a species of human being who does keg stands in college to impress others. Add in the fact that more women are pursuing a career before settling down, and it is obvious why there is such a delay in having babies.
You might consider freezing your eggs to preserve your fertility until the time is right, but is there even a deadline on egg freezing? Many fertility clinics across the country strongly encourage patients to proceed with donor eggs at the age of 42, and therefore recommend that women under the age of 42 (particularly those under the age of 35) consider freezing their eggs.
To determine if you are a good candidate for egg freezing, you should consult with a fertility doctor and undergo a thorough fertility workup. Your fertility doctor will consider a number of factors that will indicate how fertile you are currently, and your projected success using frozen eggs later in life.
- Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH). AMH is a hormone secreted by the follicles in your ovaries. An Anti Mullerian Hormone blood test will tell your fertility doctor important information about your ovarian reserve. Women with a higher concentration of AMH have greater ovarian reserve than those with low AMH and typically respond better to ovarian stimulation drugs in an IVF cycle. AMH is correlated with age, but younger women can have low AMH, as in the fertility condition Premature Ovarian Failure (POF). AMH remains mostly steady throughout the cycle, so you can have an AMH blood test on any day during your cycle. It is considered one of the most accurate predictors of ovarian reserve, but because it is a newer test, it is not available at every fertility clinic.
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH is produced by your pituitary gland and signals follicles in your ovaries to grow. Women with high FSH have a high concentration of the hormone and low ovarian reserve. In this instance, FSH has caused the follicles to “burn out”. High FSH usually predicts poor response to ovarian stimulation. Like AMH, having an atypical FSH concentration is indicative of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF). FSH is typically tested on day 3 of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It can vary from cycle to cycle, but is the traditional method of testing ovarian reserve.
- Antral Follicle Count (AFC). AFC is the baseline number of ovarian follicles before a fertility treatment cycle begins. AFC allows your fertility doctor to estimate the number of follicles expected to respond to ovarian stimulation fertility drugs in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing cycle. AFC is measured with ultrasound and you will have the results on the same day. Combined with AMH and FSH blood tests, AFC is one of the best predictors of your fertility.
- How regular is your menstrual cycle? Irregular menstrual cycles suggest you are not ovulating and this could be linked to an ovulation disorder or diminished ovarian reserve. In both egg freezing and IVF, the goal is to produce a good number of high quality eggs to work with. Your fertility doctor will assess which protocol will yield the best results for you.
- Your family history offers a glimpse into your own fertility. Studies have found a link between a mother’s age at onset of menopause and her daughter’s fertility. The average age at which menopause begins is 51. Knowing when your mother went through menopause, and if she had any fertility conditions, will help your doctor determine your candidacy for egg freezing.
The only way to know for sure if you should freeze your eggs at age 40 is to consult with a fertility doctor. Contact our Patient Care Coordinators by calling 1-855-955-BABY (2229) or by filling out the Contact Fertility Doctors Near Me form to connect with a fertility doctor in your area.