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A reality star is sharing an update on her fertility journey, saying she hopes it serves as a lesson for others who are considering having a family in the future.
In an Instagram video posted in June, Fitzgerald says the couple's journey so far has been unsuccessful and they are “disappointed."
The 41-year-old realtor is now urging people to consider egg freezing at "the youngest age possible," especially if you "know or think you want to have children."
“Women, ladies, freeze your eggs when you’re young,” Fitzgerald says. “Unfortunately, this is part of being over 40. It’s unfortunate, but if this is a learning lesson for any of you out there and you are focused on your career or haven’t met the right guy yet, freeze your eggs.”
When should you freeze your eggs? Experts weigh in
Dr. Ari Baratz, a Toronto-based reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, agrees with her statement saying the earlier a person decides to free her eggs the better.
“We know one of the main principles with egg freezing is the younger the eggs that you freeze, the more likely they are to function and be successful in producing embryos in a live birth,” CReATe Fertility Centre's Baratz tells Yahoo Canada.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a process in which a person’s eggs are extracted, frozen and stored. Not everyone is ready to have a baby in their 20s or early 30s, and egg freezing allows someone to preserve their reproductive potential until they decide they want to have a baby.
Baratz says it's common to turn to egg freezing as a form of security, even if a person doesn't end up needing it.
“Many people look at egg freezing as really a form of biological insurance,” he says.
According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, "medical" egg freezing has been used since the late 1990s for fertility preservation, helping young people with cancer who are at risk of sterility due to their treatments.
With more people choosing to have kids later in their lives, some experts say the procedure has become increasingly commercialized in the past 10 to 15 years. Over the years, "social" egg freezing has become an option for many people who want to delay having a baby.
Over time, the way eggs are frozen has also evolved. Eggs were traditionally slowly frozen and then slowly thawed, which Baratz says resulted in a poor survival rate of the eggs along with poor live birth rates.
“Vitrification or what we call rapid freeze thaw has revolutionized the space, and that’s what allowed the success rates to be significantly higher and allowed us to offer it to more and more women,” he explains.
What women can expect when freezing their eggs
An egg freezing cycle typically takes about 10 to 14 days to complete and requires multiple steps.
According to Mayo Clinic, the first step is ovarian stimulation. During this process, you inject synthetic hormones to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs, rather than the one egg that typically develops each month.
During the treatment you will be monitored by your doctor and undergo blood tests to measure how well the medications are responding.
Around two weeks later, the eggs are ready to be retrieved. Dr. Baratz says the patient is sedated before the doctors are able to retrieve the eggs, but the procedure only takes between five to 10 minutes. Once the eggs are retrieved, they are frozen for future use.
The more eggs that are retrieved, which can be up to 15 per cycle, the better chances a patient has for a live birth.
Vancouver's Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine fertility clinic says eggs can be frozen for an indefinite amount of time without any damage.
When a person's ready to start a family and they want to use the eggs, the frozen eggs will be thawed, fertilized with sperm in a lab and then implanted into their uterus by in vitro fertilization (IVF).
While it’s rare for the eggs to fail, it's not guaranteed that egg freezing will result in a live birth. Dr. Baratz says some people will need more than one cycle of egg freezing to achieve their goal since doctors have no way of determining the quality of the eggs when they are retrieved.
What is the best age to freeze your eggs?
Age matters when it comes to this fertility procedure. Women are born with a limited number of eggs and that number declines upon age.
The Montreal Fertility Centre says the highest probability of seeing a live birth after egg freezing is when the eggs are frozen before the age of 36.
That’s when someone is likely to get 10 to 15 eggs from an egg freezing cycle, which Dr. Baratz says will give them a live birth rate at around a 70 per cent certainty.
“As you move into the late 30s, early 40s, that’s when you start to see this exponential rise in the number of eggs you need to achieve similar live birth rates,” he says.
What are the risks of freezing your eggs?
Even though egg freezing is considered safe, there are certain risks involved.
Johns Hopkins Medicine indicates that some common side effects include bloating, nausea as well as pelvic and abdominal pain.
Egg freezing is a mini-surgical procedure, which also carries the risk of bleeding, infection and injury to the bladder. There's also the risk of a person's ovaries getting overstimulated by the medications.
Dr. Baratz says he usually quotes a risk of about one in 2,000 to 3,000, which he adds is “quite low.”
What are the costs?
Every person's fertility journey is different and costs may also vary depending on the clinic.
Toronto's Mount Sinai Fertility outlines sample costs for some core services that can give you an idea.
The average cost of the procedure with the medications can range between $10,000 to $15,000 CAD in Canada.
On top of that, there are also annual egg and/or embryo storage fees.
Egg freezing vs. Embryo freezing
Just like egg freezing, embryo freezing is a form of fertility preservation.
The Cleveland Clinic defines it as a process of freezing and storing embryos, which are eggs that have been fertilized by sperm, for later use.
Speak to your doctor
Anyone interested in freezing their eggs should speak to their doctor sooner rather than later. Time is a crucial part of egg freezing and can help ensure the best success rates.
Along with seeking medical help, Dr. Baratz says he also recommends patients get an evaluation of their ovarian reserve as it will give doctors a “more realistic outlook of how many eggs will yield with each treatment cycle.”