Health

Here's When You Should Freeze Your Eggs

With student loan debt, budding careers, illnesses, and oftentimes under-whelming salaries, there are many reasons why today's young women would choose to freeze their eggs. Timing is everything though, and it's important for women to undergo oocyte cryopreservation (also known as the egg freezing process) in her "prime reproductive years," which is a woman’s 20s and early 30s, according to University of Southern California Fertility.

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How does egg freezing work?

"Eggs are harvested from your ovaries, frozen unfertilized, and stored for later use," the Mayo Clinic website reads. "A frozen egg can be thawed, combined with sperm in a lab and implanted in your uterus (in vitro fertilization)."

Around 5,000 babies have been born as a result of the egg freezing process, according to NPR. This may seem like a lot of pregnancies, but as noted by the Mayo Clinic, "only a small portion of eggs that are frozen, thawed and implanted result in the birth of a baby." Egg freezing can also cost a lot of money. Dr. Angeline Beltsos, the medical director of Fertility Centers of Illinois, wrote in the Huffington Post last year that the medicine and treatment for a single cycle can cost up to $12,000. Storing eggs can cost $800 per year as well, she wrote.

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Egg freezing in television.

Egg freezing comes up quite frequently lot in pop culture. In the fourth season of "The Mindy Project," pregnant gynecologist Mindy Lahiri and her colleague Morgan start a "Later Baby" campaign to encourages college girls to freeze their eggs.

"When I was your age, I thought that I was going to be married by the time I was 25," Lahiri tells the college students. "But it took a lot longer than that. And unfortunately your body does not care if you are dating the wrong guy ... Your body and your eggs just keep getting older, which is why freezing them is a pretty smart idea, 'cause it gives you a little bit more time."

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During the second season of "New Girl," main character Jessica Day and her best friend Cece Parekh go in for egg tests after their doctor friend Sadie warns them that their egg counts may be declining.

"As your friendly neighborhood gynecologist, you should know that by the time a lady hits 30, she loses about 90 percent of her eggs," Sadie tells the women.

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Slate's Alyssa Rosenberg pointed out in 2012 that Sadie's figure comes from a 2010 study that found women have 12 percent of their eggs left by the time they turn 30 and 3 percent when they hit 40. The study found that this still leaves women with 30,000 eggs by the time they are 30, so their odds of getting pregnant might be better than they realize. However, research shows a woman's eggs can decline in quality after she hits 30 though, and women over 35 may face an increase in health risks if they become pregnant. With all of this information in mind, many women preserve their eggs in their reproductive prime to maintain their egg quality and plan for kids later on down the road.

Dr. Kevin Doody, the co-director of the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Dallas and president-elect of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, told NPR last month that around 4,000 women froze their eggs in 2013, an increase of around 2,500 from the previous year. And he predicts the number this year will be much higher.

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