By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
Maybe you don’t have a significant other. Or maybe you and your partner are career-focused right now and want to put off having children until you are older. Freezing your eggs may sound like a good option. In fact, according to the Society for Reproductive Society, 10,936 women froze their eggs in 2017.1 But is it the right choice for you? In this article, I will discuss the egg freezing procedure, what it involves, and the pros and cons of freezing eggs. I will also offer some natural alternatives that may extend your fertility, whether you opt-out of egg freezing or want to improve your chances of getting pregnant using your stored eggs.
The Egg Freezing Procedure: What To Expect
Suppose you have decided that freezing your eggs is the right choice. First, you are given artificial hormones to help the ovaries make a lot of eggs at the same time. The doctor removes these eggs surgically. Then, they are frozen until you are ready to become pregnant. At that time, the eggs are thawed, inseminated, then implanted back inside you through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Egg Freezing Pros and Cons
There are certainly advantages to freezing eggs. After all, as you get older, fertility declines. Freezing your eggs while you are younger means you will have a stockpile of eggs that are more likely to result in pregnancy than the older eggs in your ovaries. Depending on how long you wait until trying to get pregnant, frozen eggs may end up being your best chance at successfully conceiving.
However, there are also disadvantages, which for some women may outweigh the benefits. First, there is the cost. You will spend at least $10,000 on the egg freezing process, which includes the costs of hormone injections, extracting the eggs, and annual storage. Fortunately, some employers now cover egg freezing for their employees so you will want to check that as well as what, if any, your health insurance might cover.
There are also investments of time and health involved in egg freezing. While egg-harvesting is taking place, you will need to visit the clinic at least 10 times. Additionally, you will give yourself hormone injections at home for a week. These hormones can produce troubling, long-term side effects such as hair loss and an increased length of the menstrual cycle.At the time of egg harvest, you will need to undergo surgery with general anesthesia.
And, it is important to remember that freezing eggs will not guarantee that you will become pregnant. Before it comes time to defrost and inseminate the eggs, it is important to check the fertility of your partner. Sperm takes three months to mature so be sure to leave time to boost the sperm parameters if that is necessary. 50% of infertility is caused by the male, and with the investment made in egg freezing you will want to ensure the best sperm health possible. Your uterus also needs to be in tip-top shape to carry the baby to term.
Some eggs will not make it through the thawing. And many women will not even need to use the eggs they froze. They become pregnant naturally without having to have the once-frozen eggs implanted. One study in the United Kingdom found that of 85 women who had undergone egg freezing, 15 were able to have a baby.2 Of those, half conceived naturally and did not need their frozen eggs.2 Only four of the women who had become pregnant actually had done so using their stored eggs.2
Natural Alternatives to Freezing Eggs
As either an alternative or as a complement to freezing eggs, you can and should take steps to protect and improve the quality of your eggs. Increasing egg health before freezing can improve the odds of pregnancy after the eggs are thawed. And protecting the eggs in your ovarian reserve may help you achieve pregnancy naturally when the time is right. Eating organic food and staying away from food stored in containers with BPA-lining can protect your reproductive tract from environmental toxins. It is also important to avoid using anything that contains toxins known as phthalates and parabens, which are found in many personal care products such as lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and make up.
Dietary supplements to support healthy levels of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) can also maintain fertility. Cells in the egg-containing ovarian follicles make AMH. AMH is linked to how many eggs a woman has left in the follicles, known as ovarian reserve. Low AMH hormone levels mean low ovarian reserve and an increased risk of recurrent pregnancy loss.3 Too much AMH is also a problem. This often occurs in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
One nutrient that may be helpful in supporting healthy AMH levels is melatonin.. In one study, women with higher melatonin levels in follicular fluid were more likely to have normal levels of AMH.4 Higher melatonin levels were also linked to successful IVF outcomes, and more eggs were gathered from women with higher melatonin levels. In addition, women with higher melatonin levels had a greater number of eggs fertilized and higher quality embryos. In women with PCOS, six months of using melatonin led to lower AMH.5 Most of the women also experienced more regular menstrual cycles after melatonin.
Vitamin D is another nutrient linked to healthy AMH levels. Specifically, it can raise AMH.6
Antioxidants To Boost Fertility
By the time a woman is in her mid- the late thirties, she’ll have more abnormal eggs in her reserve than normal eggs. It is important to protect egg quality and slow this process down as much as possible. By blocking free radicals before they reach the eggs in a woman’s ovarian reserve, antioxidants can protect the quality of eggs. For example, melatonin supplementation can improve egg maturation during IVF treatments.9 Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another antioxidant powerhouse that can increase egg quality. In a human trial, supplementation with CoQ10 led to higher fertilization rate and more high-quality embryos.10 CoQ10 also has increased the number of ovarian follicles and improved ovulation.11 Other antioxidants such as myo-inositol improve ovulation rate12 while N-acetyl cysteine increases pregnancy rates.13 D-chiro-inositol supports healthy insulin secretion.14
It is ideal to take a prenatal antioxidant supplement such as FH PRO for Women that addresses all the issues involved in infertility from egg quality to irregular cycles to insulin support. Making sure your prenatal antioxidant includes the active form of folate is also important. Many potential mothers have a mutation (MTHFR) that causes poor absorption of folic acid.15 If a fetus does not get enough folate, birth defects can occur.15 The MTHFR mutation can also lead to a reduced rate of live births after IVF.15
Egg Freezing Is A Personal Choice
Whether to freeze your eggs or not is a personal choice. Some women opt not to because the fertility drugs used in the egg-freezing process can have side effects. Many women simply cannot afford the cost. Whether you choose to freeze your eggs or not, taking a combination of antioxidants and nutrients can help support your fertility as you age. This may result in you conceiving naturally when the time is right. Or, these antioxidants can make the egg-freezing procedure more successful by increasing the odds of your becoming pregnant once the eggs are thawed.
About Dr. Meletis
Dr. Meletis is an internationally recognized naturopathic physician, an accomplished author, and respected educator in the field of natural medicine. Dr. Meletis was honored as a ‘Naturopathic Physician of the Year’ by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for his commitment to education and helping those in need. His mission is simply, “changing the world’s health, one person at a time”.
He has authored 14 books on subjects ranging from natural medicine interactions to fertility enhancement and has published over 80 articles in publications such as Natural Health and Natural Pharmacy. Dr. Meletis has served as the Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) for seven years and later as the school’s Senior Science Officer. He sits on several medical advisory boards and has worked with Oregon Health and Science University on a grant from the National Institute of Health to further educate MD graduates on natural medicine.
- Jones BP, Kasaven L, L’Heveder A, et al. Perceptions, outcomes, and regret following social egg freezing in the UK; a cross-sectional survey. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2019 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print.]
- Sencan H, Keskin N, Khatib G. The role of neopterin andanti-Mullerian hormone in unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss – a case-control study. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2019 May 7:1-4. [Epub ahead of print.]
- Tong J, Sheng S, Sun Y, et al. Melatoninlevels in follicular fluid as markers for IVF outcomes and predicting ovarian reserve. Reproduction. 2017 Apr;153(4):443-51.
- Tagliaferri V, Romualdi D, Scarinci E, et al. MelatoninTreatment May Be Able to Restore Menstrual Cyclicity in Women With PCOS: A Pilot Study. Reprod Sci. 2018 Feb;25(2):269-75.
- Naderi Z, Kashanian M, Chenari L, Sheikhansari N. Evaluating the effects of administration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D supplement on serumanti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels in infertile women. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2018 May;34(5):409-12.
- Hager M, Nouri K, Imhof M, et al. The impact of a standardized micronutrient supplementation on PCOS-typical parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2019 May 17. [Epub ahead of print.]
- La Marca A, Grisendi V, Dondi G, et al. The menstrual cycle regularization following D-chiro-inositoltreatment in PCOS women: a retrospective study. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2015 Jan;31(1):52-6.
- Kim MK, Park EA, Kim HJ, et al. Does supplementation of in-vitro culture medium withmelatonin improve IVF outcome in PCOS? Reprod Biomed Online. 2013 Jan;26(1):22-9.
- Xu Y, Nisenblat V, Lu C, et al. Pretreatment withcoenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018 Mar 27;16(1):29.
- El Refaeey A, Selem A, Badawy A. Combinedcoenzyme Q10 and clomiphene citrate for ovulation induction in clomiphene-citrate-resistant polycystic ovary syndrome. Reprod Biomed Online. 2014 Jul;29(1):119-24.
- Emekçi Özay Ö, Özay AC, Çağlıyan E, et al. Myo-inositol administration positively effects ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a prospective, controlled, randomized trial. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2017 Jul;33(7):524-8.
- Salehpour S, Sene AA, Saharkhiz N, et al. N-Acetylcysteineas an adjuvant to clomiphene citrate for successful induction of ovulation in infertile patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2012 Sep;38(9):1182-6.
- Genazzani AD, Santagni S, Rattighieri E, et al. Modulatory role ofD-chiro-inositol (DCI) on LH and insulin secretion in obese PCOS patients. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2014 Jun;30(6):438-43.
- Haggarty P, McCallum H, McBain H, et al. Effect of B vitamins and genetics on success of in-vitro fertilisation: prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2006 May 6;367(9521):1513-9.