By Charlene A. Alouf, PhD, director, HAN Fertility Center Laboratory
A significant percentage of women have delayed child bearing in lieu of pursuing a career or simply because they were not ready to start their family until later in life. This may put them at a disadvantage. The chances of becoming pregnant and delivering a baby decrease with age, as both “aging” oocyte quality and increased chromosomal abnormalities not only impair fertility but also elevate the risk of pregnancy loss. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine acknowledges that a woman’s fertility declines gradually beginning as early as the age of 32 with a more significant decline beginning at 37.
Today, women that want to delay family building have a practical, viable option for preserving their “youthful” fertility that they would not have had just 10 years ago – oocyte or egg freezing. The cryopreservation of embryos and sperm has been successful in achieving pregnancies for many decades, but more recently, the ability to freeze unfertilized oocytes has evolved, leading to impressive live birth rates once thawed and fertilized.
In order to acquire the eggs, the ovaries are stimulated with hormones in an attempt to produce many follicles, a process similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF). The eggs from these follicles are surgically removed, but rather than inseminating them with sperm shortly after as with traditional IVF, the mature eggs are frozen. The goal of this cycle is to freeze many mature eggs as it is estimated that between 6-10 eggs are needed per desired pregnancy.
The number of stimulation cycles needed for egg banking is dependent upon the response of growing follicles and the number of pregnancies anticipated. The ovarian response can certainly be dependent on age, but also on the individual fertility potential of any given patient. Your individual fertility can be assessed with some baseline cycle testing. Once thawed, laboratory technology will be employed to inseminate the eggs and grow the resulting embryos for transfer to the uterus.
Egg freezing provides an insurance policy for young women who are looking to focus on other opportunities or are unsure when (of if) they’ll want children. They are banking their eggs at a biological time with the highest pregnancy rate and the lowest rate for chromosomal aberrations. If everything in their lives falls into place in a timely fashion, they may never need to use their frozen eggs for family building; this is just an insurance policy for the future.
Companies like Facebook, Apple and even Citibank are recognizing the value of offering healthcare benefits that include reproductive medicine and egg freezing. Although egg freezing is trending it does not appear to be a “trend” but a solid medical option to preserve a woman’s fertility for the future!
It is noteworthy to mention that women facing sterility from medical treatment that do not want to or are not in the position to create embryos for future use will benefit from an egg-freezing program.
If you would like to discuss assessing your fertility potential or our egg-freezing program, please contact the HAN Fertility Center at 610-447-2727.