- Dr Devika Chopra, Infertility Specialist, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai
Imagine a world wherein you are 35+, a self-made woman, career-driven and can still have a baby who had your younger genes dated back to when you were 25!! Women nowadays have the option of storing their eggs and saving them like a fixed deposit which can be encashed later when they want to have children and start a family.
Egg freezing or Ovarian cryopreservation is a procedure that can be offered to women who want to delay childbearing and want to ensure that they can preserve their fertility even after their biological clock has run its course.
As women age, the DNA of their eggs also gets older and undergoes age-related damage. Hence, women over the age of 35 have a higher chance of giving birth to genetically abnormal babies. Although there are several tests that can detect such abnormal pregnancies this eventuality could be bypassed altogether and women can use their frozen (more genetically stable) eggs at a later date and can get pregnant when they’re financially and emotionally prepared for the same.
Egg freezing or cryopreservation can be done for women in their 20’s and early 30’s and it involves taking hormonal injections for around 14 days from the start of a menstrual cycle. The dosage of the injections is decided by a qualified fertility expert and involves blood tests and ultrasounds to determine the egg reserve of the patient.
The injections administered will be synthetic hormones that stimulate the growth of eggs which are retrieved by an outpatient procedure done around the 14th day (oocyte retrieval) at a fertility clinic. The eggs that are retrieved are flash frozen in liquid Nitrogen and then can be used at a later date whenever the patient wants to conceive.
Every procedure may have side effects and the most dreaded complication of egg freezing is Ovarian Hyperstimulation which is a reaction to the synthetic hormones given for egg maturation. Minor complications are pain, bleeding and cramps due to retrieval and also mood swings due to the hormones.
Also, there is a yearly renewal price in addition to the procedure charges (Injections + Oocyte retrieval charges) which can prove to be a financial burden for some patients.
Egg Freezing: Myths busted:
- “Egg freezing gives me 100 % chance of getting pregnant later”
Human oocytes sometimes may not survive freezing and 20% of frozen eggs may perish after being thawed. Only 40-60% of the frozen oocytes get fertilized by sperm.
- “I will have a smooth sailing pregnancy after egg freezing as my child will be normal”
Genetic mutations can arise from frozen eggs in 10% of the cases and the patient may have to weigh in the risk of increased maternal age and the detrimental effect of advanced age (blood pressure, diabetes) on pregnancy.
- “Egg freezing can be done at any age”
Unfortunately, many centers have capping limits for egg freezing (up to 38 years in most). However, if freezing is done for women who have cancer and will need radiation then there may be no capping limit.
So, what’s the verdict on this procedure?
My say is, something is better than nothing and it’s better to have a back-up plan when women don’t want to be forced into marriages just because their biological clock is ticking.