Egg Freezing – A New Hope?

Pursuing educational and career goals, most women these days delay marriage and pregnancy. A woman’s fertility levels start dropping between her late 30s and early 40s- and this is a well known fact. However, with the rapidly progressing medical technology, one can freeze eggs for future use. Women now have more chances of conceiving even after they cross 35. Egg-freezing is the latest development in the field of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART). Dr.Aswini S, Senior Consultant, Jananam Fertility at NU Hospital, Bangalore explains how it works.

Diana Hayden with husband Collin and baby Arya in their first photograph together as a family.

Diana Hayden with husband Collin and baby Arya born through egg freezing

“I wouldn’t want to get married just to have a kid, or just to do the conventional thing. So, you give yourself that option, where there’s no pressure. You hear that tick-tick behind you because you feel it,” Diana Hayden said.

This was what former beauty queen, Diana Hayden, now 42 had to say when she gave birth to a daughter named Arya on January 9,2016. The curious part however was that the child was born from an egg that Hayden had frozen eight years ago. Sixteen of her eggs were frozen between October 2007 and March 2008, over two cycle of ovarian stimulation. Diana married Collin Dick in 2013 and hadfertility issues due to endometriosis. She is now a proud mother of baby Arya using her frozen eggs.

Giving birth was something which was never a medical marvel in the past. Procreation was a sort of natural phenomenon for our ancestors. But things have changed now. Career oriented women are under immense pressure to balance their work when their biological clock is ticking. Postponing conception may cost them heavily in the future.

Advancing maternal age takes a toll on the egg quality and quantity which indirectly reduces the fertility. Maximum fertility in a women’s life is seen around 25 years of age, which gradually declines over time. After 35 years there is a steep decline and by 40 years the pregnancy rates are dismal even with IVF. The abortion rates are also considerably high at this stage because of the increased chances of chromosomal abnormalities.

Many women do not realize the effect of age on declining fertility. Various reports in media of a woman in her 40s, 50s and 60s conceiving and giving birth has given an unrealistic expectation that medical science can undo the effect of aging. Lets get the facts clear. Those reports of conception in their 50s or 60s are undoubtedly using the third party donor eggs. Nevertheless if you want to delay childbearing and yet use your eggs,  here is a hope. Some call the Egg Freezing as an ‘Insurance Policy’ for the modern women.

Egg freezing and Embryo freezing ( embryo is an egg fertilized with your partner’s sperm) have been a boon to such women. Pregnancy from a frozen oocyte was first reported in 1986. The slow freezing technique which was initially used had suboptimal survival rates after thawing the frozen oocytes. Over the years, this has been replaced by a simple, quick and efficient process called vitification which has upto 90% post thaw survival rates. Vitrification is a method which flash freezes the eggs preventing the damaging ice crystal formation within and gives it a greater chance of remaining intact.

Egg freezing is no more an experimental procedure. In October 2012, the practice committee of American Society Of Reproductive Medicine(ASRM) issued a report that  in young patients egg freezing techniques have shown pregnancy rates  and birth of healthy babies that are comparable to IVF cycles using fresh eggs. Apple and Facebook announced in 2014 that they would cover egg freezing in their employee health plan. Women opting for egg freezing is on the rise and is expected to reach 76000 by 2018 according to SART( Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology).

(Read the full article in the March Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)

Author: SubEditor

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