What egg freezing means?
Egg freezing is becoming more popular each year however it was the year 2012 which proved to be a watershed for this procedure when new texhniques were employed which made the whole process more effective.
This procedure involves retrieving eggs from the uterus of a woman and freezing them so she can use them in the future. This way the woman can secure her fertility and avoid a situation in the future where her eggs are of poor quality or of very low quantity.
Freezing your eggs gives options to women who are focused on their careers but also want to have children in the future. Freezing the eggs increases the chances for a successful pregnancy in the future if the woman wants to postpone motherhood. However like other medical procedures egg freezing also has its’ share of disadvantages. Below you will find the benefits and disadvantages of egg freezing.
In today’s society, more women are choosing to freeze their eggs, whether they have to undergo cancer treatment or ovarian surgery or increasingly for social reasons. Their choice to freeze is so that they can retain the quality of their eggs and protect them at the optimum stage of their reproductive life for when the time is right for them to start a family.
Social pressure, economic instability, career opportunity and the lack of a partner are among the main reasons that lead women to postpone motherhood.
Egg freezing – how does it work?
If a woman wants to freeze her eggs, she should go to a fertility centre where they will establish whether they are any contra indications to this procedure. On the first or second day of the woman’s menstruation, the centre will perform an ultrasound and will prescribe medication so that instead of producing a single mature egg in that cycle, she will produce 6, 10, 12, 14 or more. Following approximately two weeks of treatment with injections, the eggs are then retrieved, via a surgical procedure, which is performed in the operating room under sedation. After 60-90 minutes, the patient is free to go home to rest for the first 24 hours. The eggs can then be stored indefinitely.
If the patient needs her eggs, the thawing procedure should be synchronised with the patient’s menstrual cycle. In this situation her partner’s sperm or the donor sperm (in the case of a single woman) must be supplied to the laboratory. A few days later, an embryo transfer will be performed into the uterus of the woman. The probability of success will be the same as if the woman had tried IVF at the age when her eggs were frozen.
Social freezing: a race against the biological clock
Age significantly affects the reproductive capacity of women; between the ages of 25-30 a woman’s fertility has already started to diminish and these reserves will decrease from the age of 35. At 38 years, the quantity and quality of a woman’s eggs diminish and there is increased probability of having embryos with chromosome abnormality.
Most of the patients are women who choose to delay motherhood either because of social or work pressures.
However you need to remember that the only option left to many older women to have children is to receive eggs from other younger women via an IVF egg donation option. Thanks to freezing techniques, women have the opportunity to preserve their own eggs when they are young and use them when required. Often, women don’t need to use their frozen eggs because they have achieved pregnancy naturally but they have that back-up.
Fertility preservation for oncological or medical reasons
Both female and male cancer patients that undergo aggressive radiation or chemotherapy treatments, which can often leave them sterile, have the option to preserve their fertility and the chance of having children once they have been treated for cancer.
In women, radiotherapy irreversibly damages the condition of their eggs and chemotherapy can also cause damage, depending on the type of chemotherapy used and the age of the patient. In particular, the chemotherapy treatments used for breast cancer are very harmful.
For men, chemotherapy “produces a loss or depletion of testicular tissue, although by using fewer gonadotoxic drugs, almost half of the cases recover spermatogenesis. However, there are times, even when the patient has recovered, that the quantity or quality of sperm is not adequate.
However, the positive message is that with this freezing technology cancer sufferers have a real chance to preserve their fertility and start a family when they have completed their treatment.
More time to find the ideal man
Egg freezing study shows that most women undergoing this procedure not for medical reasons are doing so because they have not yet found the right partner.
31 heterosexual women from UK, US and Norway were interviewed by a researcher from the De Monfort University in Leicester called Kylie Baldwin. The women were aged between 32 and 44. Women were asked why they froze their eggs. The popular belief is that women undergo egg freezing because they want to focus on their careers. The interview however showed something completely different as none of the women gave the career argument as a reason to freeze the eggs.
When Kylie Baldwin presented the results of the study at the British Science Festival she explained that for the women who were freezing their eggs ‘it was about finding the right potential father for their child – a male partner who was committed to parenthood, who was going to perform that role of the hands-on father and would share … the pleasures and pains of upbringing equally.’ So contrary to what we might think it was because they wanted to find a man who was the right one and would be a good father for the child.
It’s best to be young
Women gradually lose their eggs with age therefore the best time to free eggs is when a woman is relatively young.The younger she is the better the quality of the egg but obviously only when she reaches the age at which it is legally possible.
Although egg freezing does not guarantee motherhood in the future it certainly gives more reproduction control to the woman. If you don’t want to be a mother now but you know you will want to be one in the future then perhaps egg freezing is an option for you.
Benefits of egg freezing
– Improved technology
Since 2012 egg freezing is a much more successful procedure. It is safer and the results are much greater. This was made possible due to the discarding of the slow freeze method which exposed the eggs to injuries lowering their quality. Now thanks to vitrification which freezes eggs instantly the risk of injuries to the eggs is minimal.
– Preserve egg quality
Thanks to egg freezing you can stop worrying about the quality of your eggs diminishing after you reach your thirties. Lower quality eggs have higher risks of miscarriages and chromosomal abnormalities. If you want to focus on your career or other things than freezing eggs will help you preserve the quality of your eggs increasing your chances of getting pregnant after postponing motherhood.
– More time to find the one
In some cases women are not able to find “the one”, their dream guy and decide to settle for a man that will just be a good husband and a father. They do this because they are afraid that when they finally find the one and only their fertility will already be gone. Having your eggs frozen will give you more time to look for the man of your dreams.
– Fertility treatments are common
There was a time when fertility treatments were considered to be wrong and IVF kids were often called “test-tube babies“, a derogatory term. Now fertility treatments are so common they are not seen as something out of the usual. Many celebrities and many normal people use fertility treatments to deal with infertility problems like you would deal with any other disease or illness.
Disadvantages of egg freezing
– No guarantee of conception
Freezing your eggs and storing them in a egg bank does not guarantee you pregnancy if you finally decide to use them. Unfortunately the quality of eggs is not the only thing that gets worse with the passage of time. Getting older means you might have increased risks of developing various health problems which could prevent you from having a healthy pregnancy. These health issues include diabetes, fibroids, high blood pressure, endometriosis and more. Another thing is that your partner is also getting older and his sperm might also have lower quality. If you do freeze your eggs remember to continue to lead a healthy lifestyle and visit the doctor regularly.
According to research the average age of women who freeze their eggs is 38 which is when fertility declines rapidly and it is too late if you want to have a high chance of pregnancy. Not to mention that pregnancy so late in life can be problematic. The factors mentioned above are the cause of very low pregnancy rates of women who froze their eggs. 3676 British women froze their eggs since 2001 and the result is fewer than 60 babies born.
– Anaesthesia is a must
During the egg freezing procedure the ovaries need to be stimulated with hormone injections which will help to produce multiple eggs. To retrieve the eggs the patient needs to be under mild anaesthesia. The eggs are then transported to the laboratory where they will be frozen usually using the vitrification process. Note, not everyone can have anaesthesia, you need to consult with your doctor to ascertain if you are able to have it.
– It’s expensive
The cost of egg freezing is on average 60-70% of standard IVF treatment. In Europe the cost of egg freezing would be between EUR2.500-4.500 plus storage – EUR100-500 a year, depending on the country. In USA egg retrieval and injections could cost $10,000 to $15,000. Furthermore you need to pay for egg storage which could cost even $700-900 a year.