Should You Freeze Your Eggs At 35? We Spoke To Three Women About Making The Difficult Decision

Sarah had her eggs frozen shortly after turning 41. She'd been "flirting with the idea" for about ten years, but her biological clock was ticking, as they say, so she decided to go ahead.

The now 44-year-old revealed she was single for most of her thirties and, the closer she got to 40, the more she began to worry about her fertility.

"You hear a lot of stuff in the media about the fact that you're potentially going to fall off the fertility cliff, especially once you pass your mid-thirties." she explained. "I was concerned that I wasn't going to meet Mr Right before then."

For Sarah, her fertility concerns coincided with her decision to set up her own business, which she said contributed to the stress surrounding her decision.

"There was a lot of conflict in my mind at the time," she added. "I wasn't able to focus on any other key areas in my life, because I was so focused on trying to find Mr Right before I fell off this 'fertility cliff'.

"I was just going a bit nuts if I'm honest. And I think the state that I was in and the energy I was giving off was probably repellant to any men I'd met."

Sarah is one of a growing number of women who feel pressured to have a family before time runs out.

Partnerless and with her own business to focus on, she turned to egg freezing to give her the chance to put having children on hold until she is 100% ready.

And she isn't the only one concerned. A new study published on Wednesday is urging women to freeze their eggs by the time they reach 35.

Egg freezing is a form of fertility treatment where a woman's eggs are extracted, frozen and stored. Then, later when she's ready to have a child, her eggs can be thawed, fertilised and transferred to the uterus as embryos.

The procedure itself usually takes two weeks and costs between £3,500 and £4,500 for one cycle of treatment. On top of that, women are then required to pay an annual storage fee to keep their eggs safe - the current standard storage time in the UK is 10 years.

"The egg freezing cycle involves taking daily injections of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the second day of your period for around 10 days with a small needle under your skin," explained Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director at Create Fertility.

During this time, patients will have between three and four ultrasound scans and blood tests to monitor the growth of your follicles. Once these have ripened, patients will receive a trigger injection under the skin to mature the eggs.

The egg collection is usually planned around 36 hours afterwards.

"You are given mild sedation so that you will not feel any pain," said Professor Nargund. "Eggs are collected by a doctor emptying the fluid from the follicles by passing a needle through the vagina into the ovary. The procedure lasts for around 15-25 minutes."

After the procedure, patients are advised to rest at home.

Embryologists will then freeze the patient's eggs using a rapid freezing process called vitrification, which helps to stop the formation of ice crystals on the eggs.

"The survival rates for eggs with this method can be more than 80% in younger women," said Prof Nargund.

Despite many women in their late thirties and early forties opting to have their eggs frozen, the success rate is actually higher if eggs are taken from women in their mid-twenties to early thirties.

"In reality, many women only come to egg freezing by the time they are in their late thirties, by which time the quality and quantity of their eggs is already diminished," added Prof Nargund.

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But for some women in their early thirties, it's not always possible to afford the treatment.

Shannon Deep suffers from PCOS. She previously blogged on the Huffington Post about her fertility worries and was debating having her eggs frozen, just in case her condition left her infertile.

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, she revealed that for her, money was the main issue behind why she hadn't already had treatment: "I have a 'creative' professional life which means I'm not currently earning a lot of money and may not be able to do so until I'm past the recommended 'best' age for having kids.

"If money were no object, I would freeze my eggs tomorrow and just hope that I don't actually need them. But I don't have that kind of money lying around."

And it's not just PCOS sufferers who rely on egg freezing to try and safeguard their chances of having children.

When the treatment was first made available, the majority of patients were women diagnosed with cancer, who wanted to preserve their fertility before facing cancer treatment.

But, nowadays, it's used by a variety of women who want to postpone having children. "This could be for a number of reasons," said Prof Nargund, such as "not having an ideal partner, pursuing education or a career, caring for parents or just to take the pressure off relationships".

Additionally, women who have a family history of early menopause often choose to freeze their eggs because they have an increased risk of suffering the same fate.

Rebecca Lewis, 29, said that her mum went through early menopause and, as a result, she's been forced to consider all the options earlier than she would've liked. But, she says, it hasn't been something that could be openly discussed at the dinner table.

"Without sounding too 'millennial', I think that it's hard to openly consider egg freezing. I'm constantly told 'you've got all the time' and 'it's OK to put career before family' and 'you're a modern woman', but despite all this you still think you're making the wrong choice.

"Three or four years ago I spoke to my doctor about the possibility of freezing eggs. At the time I knew I was too young to have the procedure on the NHS and she confirmed that, but her calm yet matter-of-fact nature was a comfort to me, and made me realise that it shouldn't be so taboo."

"Ultimately I'm nowhere close to making a decision, and I am certainly not in a financial position to have them frozen privately," said Lewis.

"But I suppose at the moment, as I settle into my career and living in London, I'm trying to focus more on having a life right now rather than worrying about my life in 10 or 15 years time."

It's also worth noting that there are downsides to egg freezing, namely the fact that "it's not a guaranteed insurance policy", said Prof Nargund.

"It is important to remember that there is a chance that the eggs will not survive the thawing (unfreezing) process and that they may fail to produce a viable embryo or pregnancy," she added.

Following the collection of her eggs, Sarah, 44, said she felt somewhat relieved that she had a back up plan, but wasn't wholly won over by the idea.

"I felt like I'd done the best that I could, given the circumstances," she explained.

"Whether I believe that having my eggs frozen is going to give me the security that often gets talked about, I'm not completely convinced.

"I don't believe it's this amazing, catch-all situation because you still have to go through IVF and it's still going to be expensive, the success rates aren't brilliant, and at the end of the day I saved my eggs when I was 41 instead of when I was 30, so they won't be of the same quality."

For those women who are in a position where they could have kids naturally, Sarah says go for it.

"It's a bit like playing Russian Roulette isn't it?" she said. "You're still taking a chance, but I believe that the best chance you'll have is your natural chance."