Canadian women are choosing motherhood later in life and the average age for a first pregnancy in Canada now hovers around 31 years old.
With an increase in age comes a greater potential for complications in getting pregnant and one in six Canadians experiences infertility.
Dr. Sonya Kashyap, medical director of Genesis Fertility Centre in Vancouver, said fertility is something women should keep in mind — before they attempt to get pregnant.
Kashyap talked to CBC's Our Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko about planning for motherhood with modern medicine and the necessity of thinking ahead.
"These days, we see many individuals and couples delaying their childbearing until later years," Kashyap said.
"It takes longer to find a partner, it takes longer to complete your education, it takes longer to have a career and, certainly in Vancouver, it takes longer to find a house."
Professional women are faced with career choices that men are not, Kashyap said, and it is harming their ability to become mothers when they decide to.
"Women deserve to understand their reproductive options," she said. "Education about egg freezing is as important as contraceptive education when you think about family planning."
'Fertility gender gap'
Although 40 per cent of infertility in couples is on the male side, it is something that affects women more as they get older.
"There really is a fertility gender gap," Kashyap said. "For women, our eggs are our age, whether that's 30, 35 or 40. For men, no matter what age they are, their sperm is two months old."
Older eggs mean a decline in the number and quality, reducing fertility and can result in an increased risk of miscarriage. Kashyap said freezing eggs at a younger age is a solution she hopes will change the perceptions about infertility.
- Egg freezing's on the rise, but when's a good time do it?
"We'd love to change the conversation and take 'infertility' out of the vocabulary and call it 'fertility' and egg freezing is a way to do that," she said.
Kashyap said freezing eggs won't necessarily solve infertility but it improves options for motherhood.
"It's not a guarantee but it is the best thing that we have to prolong or extend women's fertility until they are ready — whatever ready means."
High treatment costs
Egg freezing involves an ovarian reserve assessment, an ultrasound, an antral follicle count and an egg extraction.
The cost of the process can range from $7,000 to $10,000 and just the storage of an egg can cost several hundred dollars a year.
In Canada, the consults to the work-up are covered by medical plans, and the federal government has committed a tax credit to assist people who need to use assisted reproductive technologies.
Cost is just one factor though, Kashyap cautioned, and time is just as important to keep in mind.
"Don't just freeze them and forget about them," she said. "Whatever the circumstances are, for sure, will be easier when you are younger."
She said there are always options but, with time, the options change.