How about freezing your oocytes to battle the biological clock? Women have a limited reserve of eggs that keep depleting as one age. Also, Aging reduces the quality of the eggs. At what age this decline occurs is essentially genetically determined, but on an average, there is a steep decline in the quality and quantity after the age of 35. This is unlike that for males, where sperm production continues and aging has minimal effects on it. It is pretty obvious, how often does a woman of 45 conceive? But a man of 45 can easily become a father. In this regard, I’d say women are at a disadvantage and are also the gender who have greater levels of stress than their male counterparts. But, there is hope! Egg freezing, also called oocyte cryopreservation is here to allay your fears.
When would you need it? Let’s say you are reaching 30 years of age and have not yet found the right partner. You are ambitious and you wish to pursue your education or career goals before you want to settle down. You want to be financially independent before you are ready to take the plunge. Your biological clock isn’t going to wait for any of these reasons!
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) (www.asrm.com) guidelines suggest some medically accepted reasons for which oocyte cryopreservation would be indicated, even for the younger woman. To know more refer this article.
- Young woman or adolescents undergoing Chemotherapy or Radiation for Cancer placing them at risk for infertility in the future.
- Women with genetic mutations like BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 or HNPCC that are at high risk for Ovarian cancer, where the ovaries need to be surgically removed as a preventive measure.
Other reasons could include a family history of Premature Ovarian Failure or early Menopause, where the biological clock is more advanced than usual. Anti-Mullerian Hormone, AMH can be detected in the blood and it is indicative of the Ovarian Reserve. The Antral Follicle Count, AFC can be visualized with an ultrasound which also gives an idea of the ovarian reserve. A low AMH and AFC indicates that the woman may need cryopreservation in view of a low ovarian reserve.
Endometriosis is a condition that is one of the most common causes of infertility and poor quality eggs that may need egg freezing.
In IVF, if the man is not able to give a semen sample, the eggs may need to be frozen to perform IVF/ICSI at a later date.
Alternatively, if the woman is married but wishes to stall her plans of having children, embryos can be frozen using her eggs and her husband’s sperms.
Oocyte cryopreservation isn’t new. The first baby conceived with an egg that had been frozen was born in 1986, over 30 years ago! In 2012, ASRM published a guideline about oocyte cryopreservation no longer being experimental, and that it is safe. The success of oocyte cryopreservation has improved dramatically and the data for its safety is reassuring.
We at Dr. Sudha Tandon Infertility Centre have expertise in performing this procedure and offer it to those that require it. The woman is given medicines to stimulate the ovaries to form more follicles, which will then lead to forming more oocytes. When the follicles are ripe, a trigger is given for the final maturation of the oocytes and 36 hours after which the oocytes are retrieved from the follicles using a needle attached to the transvaginal ultrasound probe. The oocytes retrieved are then flash frozen using a process called vitrification.
Freezing the eggs at an earlier age allows the woman to save eggs of better quality that can help her to conceive rather than the limited and poor quality eggs expected beyond 35 years of age. Women that elect to freeze their eggs are essentially well educated, forward thinking and are in more control of their reproductive future. It has its emotional benefits which leave the woman not stressed and not facing any difficulty to conceive as her age advances. It is surely the best gift that one can give to oneself! Let’s just call it akin to Investing in oneself.
According to Infertility specialist Dr. Sudha Tandon, who has devoted over 20 years in this field, this has been a rising trend in the urban population in the last few years. She quotes “Fertility preservation by way of Egg or Embryo freezing is an excellent option that every woman must be aware of.”
We at Dr. Sudha Tandon Infertility center, encourage the woman who is facing this dilemma to approach us to know your best options. At a later date, if you cannot conceive naturally, these frozen eggs will be like money in a bank!
Author: Dr. Aditi Prabhu Tandon
Dr. Aditi Tandon is a gynecologist at Sudha Tandon Fertility, IVF and Endoscopy Center. She has a keen interest in Gynaec Endoscopy and Infertility management. She has completed her under graduation from K.J. Somaiya Medical College and post-graduation M.S. OBGY from Rural Medical College, Loni (2016). She has a keen interest in infertility and has observed and assisted various Assisted Reproductive Technique procedure such as IUI’s, follicular monitoring scans, Semen preparation, Embryo loading, Semen and embryo freezing, ICSI, ovum pick-up and embryo transfers as well as observed stimulation protocols in the OPD.