What are the realities of conceiving in one’s 30s? Is conception and childbirth exclusively age-related, genetic, or a combination of both? What should I be worried about as I approach my later 30s? I consider myself in exceptionally good health and I take care to manage my reproductive health, but I am still nervous about conceiving and wonder if I should freeze my eggs?
There are different aspects to aging and fertility, and getting hung up on a number and approaching fertility with fear can further diminish fertility via stress and worry. However, ignoring statistics and putting off healthy lifestyle choices that favor fertility would be similarly unwise. The basics on female age and fertility: The graphic charts start to creep down by age 34, further accelerate around age 37, and really plummet in the early 40s and beyond, but it’s always important to remember that your body is far more than a statistic. Exceptional health and making conscious healthy lifestyle and reproductive choices are important regardless of age of planned conception. Egg freezing is certainly being marketed as an insurance policy against potential future infertility and playing on our emotional vulnerabilities in ways that deserve a step back and some deeper examination. Only a few years ago, frozen eggs were not even particularly viable, and antifreeze solutions are required to prevent damage. For eggs made vulnerable by radiation or chemotherapy, it makes sense to freeze as an insurance policy. But in spite of the marketing pressure for younger women to freeze eggs for the future, damage still occurs, and fertilization rates remain below 50% with frozen eggs. It seems that worries about being able to conceive naturally in your later 30s and beyond might not be alleviated simply by freezing your eggs given those stats. There’s also the expense, plus the exposure of your body to fertility drugs, including hormone blockers and synthetic hormones, and to surgery – the eggs are removed with a needle through the vaginal wall under anesthesia. I’ve had patients who after only one stimulated cycle had significant hair loss, 40 day long cycles, and mood swings, and had trouble getting back on track. I support our choices in the context of truly informed consent. If this take on egg freezing seems a bit on the negative end of the spectrum, I think it’s important to be aware and to balance the serious pressure that young women and people are feeling to view their reproductive capacities as necessarily limited and inevitably requiring technological and surgical solutions to control and restore.
Dr. Eden Fromberg
Dr. Fromberg is a Board Certified OBGYN who is also Board Certified in Integrative Holistic Medicine, and is the Founder and Director of Holistic Gynecology New York, a pioneering sanctuary for truly holistic women’s health throughout the life cycle.
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