Pros / Cons and Why Egg Freezing is a viable Option for both Current and Potential Mothers?

Almost one in eight couples will seek help with fertility. Of these, at least a third of the couples will need some of fertility treatment. The average female age of starting family has risen compared to a decade ago. More and more women or couples aim to achieve financial stability before they can think of having family. Also, with the advancements in science and technology, there is better life expectancy from complex medical conditions and their treatment. Hence fertility preservation is a compelling alternative option in such situations.

Most women or couples should consider a basic fertility check. This should at least include tests to check for ovarian reserves. Most couples find it difficult to know as to when would be good time to seek help from a fertility specialist. Also, taking the first step also causes considerable anxiety. If couples have been trying for a year or more without any success, then it is time to speak to a fertility expert. For those who may be concerned about fertility because of medical illness or family history, then you can seek help earlier rather than waiting a year. Based on these tests, the fertility specialist would advise you about your options and next steps. In this post, I will briefly discuss about the basic fertility treatments like insemination and fertility preservation for women.

Insemination as a Fertility Treatment

Insemination is a basic fertility treatment where in the sperms from the partner or donor are replaced in the upper half of the womb cavity. This may be planned as part of natural cycle or sometimes women may be prescribed medicines such as clomiphene (clomid®) or gonadotropin injections (Gonal F®, menopur®, fostimon®, merional®, etc.). These medicines help the development of one or few follicles. During the course, women are scanned regularly. When they are about to ovulate, then insemination procedure is undertaken within the next day or two.

For those who are not ready to start or complete family yet, then egg freezing may give you an option of having a genetically related child later on when the natural fertility may not be optimal. Also, patients suffering from various medical conditions including cancers are now enjoying better life expectancy. Hence, the issue of fertility preservation such as egg freezing is important. Male or female fertility preservation should be considered wherever relevant. This gives individuals an assurance that they have an option of having a biologically related child.

Egg Freezing for Fertility Treatment

The process of egg freezing is similar to IVF. Women have to take to fertility medicines which are usually injections. Then they attend for regular follicular monitoring tests to check the growth of the follicles. When it is thought that the follicles have grown to the right size and the eggs are ready to be collected, then egg collection or harvesting is done. This is a minor surgical process performed under sedation, these follicles are drained. The drained fluid is then checked for the eggs. The mature eggs are identified and flash frozen (vitrification). According to law (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1995), the eggs can be frozen for a total of ten years. In situations, where it is thought that the women may be rendered permanently infertile, then the storage period can be extended to a cumulative period of fifty-five years. Every ten years, this has to be certified by the medical practitioner for the ongoing storage. This is usually the case for women who have been treated for cancers with or without chemotherapy or radiotherapy. During this storage period, ambient conditions and monitoring of these conditions is carefully maintained. So, the eggs continue to remain functionally competent even when used many years later.

The biological clock affects both male and female fertility, but it affects female fertility far more than it does to male fertility. This effect may be further aggravated by any medical conditions, surgery or regular prescription medicines. With the availability of technology to make this possible, egg freezing offers women a reasonable alternative option especially when they think the natural fertility might not be optimum. Whilst egg freezing will not guarantee a genetically related child, it does offer a suitable alternative option to all mothers, both the potential and the current, who have either not started or completed their family.