Healthy Living

Why Young Women with Rheumatoid Arthritis Are Freezing Their Eggs Early

Why Young Women with Rheumatoid Arthritis Are Freezing Their Eggs Early

While many freeze their eggs for the potential of having children down the line, it isn't as common in young women. However, those with rheumatoid arthritis have started to in order to ensure their disorder will not be able to stop them from a dream of having children.

How does RA impact fertility?

There are varying reports on whether or not rheumatoid arthritis is able to impact fertility, but for those who believe it may, or may just make pregnancy more complicated, freezing your eggs may be worth it. Even when certain doctors make the assurances that rheumatoid arthritis cannot impact fertility, the fact that some believe it can is enough for many to opt to freeze to protect the possibility.

The uncertainty in the field regarding whether or not rheumatoid arthritis is capable of making a significant impact on fertility underlines the fact that more research is necessary to answer this question. With more data, a consensus can be reached that will enable women to make a more educated decision on the matter.


Because the matter is so uncertain, women who are in their prime reproductive years are massively uncertain on how to proceed. If rheumatoid arthritis cannot impact fertility, then it seems that there is no reason to freeze eggs if you can simply have children "naturally." However, if there is even a possibility that rheumatoid arthritis could take that chance away from them, they would love to take any steps that would enable them to have children.

If more rheumatologists and researchers would produce studies on the subjects, women would have the possibilities to be counselled when they enter into treatment instead of being blindsided later down the road.

Women diagnosed with RA in their prime reproductive years have been shown to have fewer children than others. There are a few possible explanations for this, but one that many believe could be the culprit is the medications. Certain ones that are necessary for treating rheumatoid arthritis such as methotrexate can lead to birth defects. As a result, it isn't possible to take medication that is necessary for some while pregnant or breastfeeding, leading many to avoid it.

Others say that the decreased number of people who have children with rheumatoid arthritis would more likely be linked to the choice not to reproduce, as they do not believe that raising a child while having rheumatoid arthritis would be realistic due to excess difficulty. Others think that maybe they would pass the genes onto the children, and would not want to risk putting another burden through that. Regardless of what the link is, clearly fewer women decide to have children when they have rheumatoid arthritis.

Sometimes women will go through certain necessities when handling their rheumatoid arthritis, such as testing ovarian reserve levels. Often, they will be told the reserve is low, which may or may not be a result of their rheumatoid arthritis. This comes as a shock to many, and some find themselves regretting that their rheumatologist had not told them that this would be a possibility earlier, when they would have had more of a chance to do something about it. Even if rheumatologists are not convinced that there is a link between fertility problems and rheumatoid arthritis, they should warn that some believe there could be, so women have a full understanding and are better able to make the decision for themselves. Many feel that if they had known of even the potential risks earlier that they would have either tried to get pregnant earlier, tried freezing their eggs earlier, or thought of an alternative plan so they didn't feel as if they were given a shock so far down the line at a time when having a child seems to be on a ticking clock.

Related studies

As mentioned, there have been very limited studies in reference to this subject; however, one that looked into Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) discovered that there was a significantly higher correlation of SLE in those who are infertile than the rest of the population. With that being said, the study did have a very small sample size, which caused it to be deemed inconclusive. Also, it is not possible to know whether these results can be applied to other autoimmune diseases or if they are distinct to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Inflammation and pregnancy

Some believe that the heightened inflammation that is associated with many autoimmune diseases might be due to the increased level of difficulty of carrying a pregnancy to term. While most women have natural fears of the difficulty associated with pregnancy, it is not surprising that those who would likely endure further struggles would not be as inclined to have a child. One anxiety that would understandably be associated with the process would be autoimmune ID, which is a condition in which one's own immune system is triggered to attack an implanted embryo, which causes miscarriages. While women with or without the autoimmune disorder can suffer from miscarriages, the risk has shown to be significantly higher in those who do have rheumatoid arthritis.

Others have pointed out that aside from the difficulties that could occur during a pregnancy, beforehand it is also tremendously difficult. For women who are trying to get pregnant and have rheumatoid arthritis, the process has shown to take a much longer amount of time. Researchers believe that this could be a result of an attempt to time conception with disease flares, requiring time off of medication that could harm the baby, etc. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have also shown to potentially be capable of causing irregular ovulation, which complicates the process of becoming pregnant.

While there may be some added hardships, none of this means that it is impossible for those who have rheumatoid arthritis to get pregnant. In fact, many women do get pregnant and have babies without any problems. If it can't seem to occur naturally, there is also the option of IVF. Plus, there's an added bonus: rheumatoid arthritis symptoms have shown to become more manageable during both pregnancy and IVF treatment!

Final thoughts

So, while there is no decisive answer to whether or not rheumatoid arthritis can affect fertility, it is important for women to be aware of what some believe to be a possibility. Even if further research turns out to show that rheumatoid arthritis cannot affect fertility, being prepared for road bumps in the process never hurts.

One woman with rheumatoid arthritis who is going through the process of freezing her eggs explains how she feels about her experience so far: "I'm nervous about taking all the medications and what they might do to my RA symptoms, but I'm also feeling empowered about living in a time when I have the opportunity to freeze my eggs and get a bit of a fertility boost from science."

It is certainly nothing short of a miracle that science has come such a long way to enable those to have children that might not be able to otherwise. For those brave young women who have rheumatoid arthritis and are freezing their eggs, it has been a life-changer.