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We need to talk about egg freezing

egg frozen

In December 2010 the first ‘Ice baby’ was born: the first baby to come from an egg that had been frozen. In 2012, the label ‘experimental’ was removed from female fertility preservation treatment, but with a disclaimer about the results.

Today, in 2016, four years later, freezing eggs is a treatment that is included in almost all standard services offered by fertility clinics due to its high degree of reliability.

egg frozen

Egg vitrifcation provides hope

We recently read about the case of an English 33-year-old woman who talked about her experience. She had been working for around eight years and had a successful career that she liked. For the past two years she had been involved in a loving relationship but had never considered having children. Suddenly, after seeing an advert in the street she started experiencing her first pangs of uncertainty about her fertility. She went to get a test to find out what stage her fertility was at. She was surprised to discover that her ovarian reserve was similar to that of a 41-year-old woman. She didn’t think twice about starting the process of freezing her eggs.

Following two treatments and their corresponding visits, she was able to produce a sufficient number of eggs to be frozen. Today she knows that any hopes or dreams she may have about being a mother are laid to wait calmly in a lab until a time when she decides she is ready.

What we do know for certain about this treatment is that the younger a woman is the more treatment options she has, and the higher the number of eggs -and better quality eggs- will be obtained.

The number of women worldwide of a fertile age in 2018 is estimated to be around 76,000. These women must start to think about their future and preserve their fertility now, without the need for taking unnecessary risks.

The treatment required to preserve fertility through freezing or vitrifying eggs costs on average 2,500 euros, although in the UK this treatment costs around 3,900 euros without including storage fees or medical visits throughout the process. This enables women aged 20 to 35 to make decisions about their own fertility. Their eggs will be stored via cryopreservation at a temperature of -196 ºC, which means that these eggs will age at the rate of 1 second per 10,000 years, ensuring that they stay the same throughout a woman’s lifetime.

The average age of Spanish women for having their first child is around 32. In the 1960s, it was 24.

As was mentioned earlier, fertility preservation offers hope. Nature’s gender inequality, as it is referred to by Prof Nargund is a reality. Independently of a woman’s health, as the years go by and regardless of how well she looks after herself, the nature of female fertility is completely independent and will run its course, with alarming speed after the age of 35. Being able to obtain eggs via ovarian puncture and then freeze them is a revolutionary development in comparison with an alternative future of hormones and injections. This alternative future would also be costly in many ways, necessitating more complex treatment economically, emotionally and physically.

In the 1980s the world experienced a revolution as a result of the contraceptive pill and, following a series of efforts, unwanted teenage pregnancies were reduced. However, now it is important to inform society of fertility preservation options so that women are fully informed about their fertility and have the necessary resources to make informed decisions where their biological clocks are concerned.

Fertility preservation treatment should be included in the array of standard treatments offered in any country with fertility as a primary goal. An alternative is needed for the cost of IVF treatment, which is not always successful. If IVF treatment was performed with young eggs, positive results would improve exponentially and the cost involved would decrease.

Women need to know what options they have from a young age. Women who currently go to fertility clinics with the aim of performing fertility preservation treatments are doing so late, which means that they have to spend more money as generally one cycle is not sufficient for obtaining an optimum number of eggs to be frozen. In the future, women must be properly informed while they are still young.

The English 33-year-old woman with an ovarian reserve equivalent to a 41-year-old had to repeat the process and also take medication, with a final cost of more than 12,500 euros for freezing 12 eggs. If she had seen the advert earlier and had received information sooner, she would have spent far less. In Spain, this cost would have been still less –less than half in actual fact- but if she had had information earlier a large part of this process would have been unnecessary.

Do not let the people around you remain in ignorance; share this article so that young women near you can be in control of their own lives and opt for a better future.

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