As a woman, can I protect my fertility from the effects of ageing?

Some women may not be ready to start a family at an age when their egg quality is most conducive to supporting pregnancy; but in later years when they are ready, egg quality may have declined making pregnancy difficult or impossible. Women can therefore be faced with very difficult decisions. There aren’t any effective options currently available for reversing the effects of ageing on eggs after quality has already declined. The alternative is to freeze either eggs or embryos when egg quality is still good and to use these eggs later in life when the individual is ready to start a family.

The approach used for single women is to freeze eggs, often referred to in the lay press as “Social Egg Freezing”. Since age dictates the quality of eggs, the age at which eggs are frozen is the critical factor in determining how beneficial the approach is likely to be, as well as how many eggs would need to be frozen for achieving a reasonable chance of pregnancy down the track. Ovarian reserve (how many eggs the ovaries contain) is also a very important consideration since this will determine how many eggs might be obtained from a single round of ovarian stimulation. Some large companies like Facebook, Google and Apple pay for their female employees to freeze their eggs.

For more information on ovarian reserve, see my section on AMH, Ovarian Reserve and the “Egg Timer Test”.

Because embryo freezing offers more predictable outcomes than egg freezing, it would be preferable to freeze embryos if women are in a stable relationship.