I’m a 27 year old female who’s married. My husband and I have no plans to have children at the moment and are unsure whether we would decide to in our 30s. At what point should we start considering seeing a doctor about preserving fertility (e.g. embryo freezing, etc.) in case we decide to have children later on? Approximately how much would these procedures cost? Also, if we have the embryo freezing done, roughly when would be the recommended age that we’d need to make a decision on whether to actually go ahead?

Written by our medical expert Dr. Beth Taylor, co-founder and co-director of Olive Fertility Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia.

You are smart to be thinking about your fertility now! Let me break your question down:

1. At what point should [you] start considering seeing a doctor about preserving fertility?

Now.  Yes, now.  I know it might seem too early, but seeing a doctor can help you determine how many more years you will be fertile.  As you age fertility declines because your egg number and quality decrease.  The rate at which this decrease happens varies between women.  Women can run out of eggs as early as their teen years or 20’s.  It is important to know how quickly you are running out of eggs.  Your doctor can do a simple blood test (e.g. an AMH) to determine how many eggs you have left and how many more years you might expect to be fertile with your eggs.  This is very powerful information! It will help you know whether you can wait a few years to try and conceive or not.  Also, your doctor can help determine whether your husband’s sperm is good, whether your fallopian tubes are open and whether your uterus is healthy – all important parts of the fertility puzzle.  If a problem is found then you can usually have it fixed before you are ready to conceive.

If your egg count is low, I would recommend that you do something now to preserve what fertility you have and freezing embryos is a good option. If your egg count is high then you should still consider fertility preservation by embryo freezing but with less urgency than if the count is low.

2. How much would these procedures cost?

The process of embryo freezing involves giving a woman medication to cause her to grow multiple eggs in her ovaries.  These eggs are removed from her ovaries and fertilized with sperm.  The embryos that result from fertilizing the eggs are then frozen. In Canada, embryo freezing costs about $9,000, plus the cost of medications (about $3000-4000).  Once embryos are frozen, there is an annual storage fee of approximately $200. The good news is that embryos can be stored for years without any harm.

Embryo freezing is a highly successful way to preserve your fertility.  A couple who freezes embryos when the woman is in her 20’s, have an 80% or higher chance of having a baby from a single embryo freezing cycle.

It’s worth starting to learn more about your fertility.  Having an open and honest conversation with your husband about when and if you want to conceive is important. Knowing your plans, understanding your fertility, and learning about the options is a good place to start.

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