Would You Freeze Your Eggs?

 By: Sandra Prior
Fertility pressure on women has never been so strong. Barely a day goes by without a terrifying newspaper headline about how thousands of women are leaving it too late to have children - the inference being that younger women are selfish and attach more importance to their career and social life than to settling down and breeding.

For most women, what's holding them back from having a baby isn't as simple as wanting to "have it all". It's about having the right man or the right career at the right time. The fact is our bodies aren't designed for modern lifestyles.

We're born with every egg we'll ever produce - about two million - already in our ovaries. The longer they live in the body, the poorer their quality and the fewer there are. It's the reason older women find it increasingly difficult to get pregnant. By the age of 40, a woman is only the 10th as likely to conceive as she is at the age of 30, purely due to the quality of her eggs.

Mother Nature intended women to have babies around the age of 20. However, conceiving at that age doesn't fit in with the way we live today. Until recently there was little women could do except make a tough choice between a career and having children. But now technology is offering another answer.

Freeze your eggs until the time is right. Fertility preservation is becoming increasingly affordable and successful. If a woman is thinking of freezing her eggs, the younger she does it, the better.

On the Ice

So why do women decide to put their eggs on ice? Relationship malfunction is often to blame. Many women come out of a long term relationship with someone they expected to have children with. When a woman who wants children has to go back to playing the dating game again, it can be worrying. Her fertility clock is ticking and she knows the odds of her conceiving naturally will reduce with each year that passes. That situation puts a lot of pressure on a woman.

No Guarantees

A recent survey showed that the main reason given for social egg freezing was being sure all positive reproductive opportunities were taken advantage of; ie, a belt-and-braces- insurance policy. But although the technology is becoming easier, it's hardly as simple as popping down to an egg bank and making a deposit. First, the doctor must determine how many eggs may be left in a woman's body through a process called Ovarian Reserve Testing. Also hormone levels must be tested and a detailed family history of the patient is required. If everything is satisfactory, treatment will begin.

A freezing cycle is similar to an IVF cycle; in the second month of the process, the patient injects herself with a hormone to stimulate egg release. Instead of producing one, she'll produce a dozen eggs or more at once. When they're fully grown, they're harvested by the doctor and frozen in liquid nitrogen.

When frozen, they don't age. At the time the eggs are stored, they'll remain the eggs of a 30 year old women, even when they're implanted in a 40 year old body, ten years later. But many women don't consider the idea until time really starts running out.

The survival rates for defrosted eggs used to be very low, now 75% of them are thawed successfully. Although it's improving, there are risks and more work needs to be done. It's an important tool for women who have cancer or for those mothers who have gone through an early menopause, but it's not a sure way of delaying motherhood for every women.

There are physical risks too. Egg harvesting is a complex medical procedure. There are risks associated with ovarian stimulation and egg collection. It's better to have babies the old fashioned way, but this at least offers a fallback plan should that option fail.
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