Dr Kshitiz Murdia
When Samaira Gupta was 36, her gynaecologist told her about this technique where women can freeze their eggs so as to preserve their fertility. Also, Samaira had lost one of her ovaries during emergency surgery to remove a non-cancerous cyst, so it was a well-meaning advice.
But Samaira, a computer programmer, was annoyed as she had consistently failed in her past personal relationships. And, she was in no mood to marry someone out of desperation.
Almost 7-8 months later, with the help of her parents support, Samaira eventually agreed to freeze her eggs and be part of an expending group of women who are putting motherhood on ice, not for medical reasons alone but because of their career, lack of suitable partner or other social circumstances.
At times, couples who are not financially stable or who prefer to attain some comfortable position before deciding to welcome a new member also opt for this technique.
Moreover, early egg preservation is beneficial. Age is important because eggs start growing old in 30s. Also, fertility declines with age. Be cautious as eggs cannot be frozen just before menopause because it will not guarantee good quality eggs, since you have crossed your prime.
Internationally, egg freezing is a route that Hollywood celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashain have taken. And in India, Diana has set an example. Though the technique of egg freezing is still not very common in India, with the technique catching people’s attention and women becoming more career oriented, the trend is slowly catching up here.
What is Egg Freezing
Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, is a method used to preserve a woman’s reproductive potential.
Eggs are harvested from your ovaries, frozen unfertilized and stored for later use.
During this technique, the eggs of a woman are stored for up to ten years in liquid nitrogen at 1i96 degrees centigrade – rather like a deep freeze.
A frozen egg can be thawed, combined with sperm in a lab and implanted in your uterus (in vitro fertilization).
The procedure is similar to IVF: the patient is injected hormonal drugs for 10 to 12 days to stimulate her ovaries to produce and grow more eggs than normal. During this time she may suffer menopause-like symptoms and must be monitored to ensure her ovaries are not dangerously over stimulated.
Female’s eggs are then retrieved under sedation or general anaesthetic using an ultrasound-guided needle that sucks the eggs from each follicle – or egg sac.
When a woman is ready to use her frozen eggs, they are warmed up, injected with sperm and left to fertilise. If successful, between one and three resulting embryos are transferred to her uterus in the hope she will become pregnant.
Testing the Ovarian Reserve
As women turns 30, their fertility starts taking a toll. Their ovarian reserve drops drastically and hence it is crucial to get ovarian testing done. The result of the testing decides if the woman needs to take any serious step to prevent herself from getting infertile or helps her to take the right step before it gets too late. A woman may decide to go for egg freezing after considering the result so as to ensure motherhood at later stage.
It is observed that the success rates of pregnancy achieved through ‘frozen’ eggs is at par with the pregnancy attained via fresh eggs.
Many MNCs are now encouraging their female employees to freeze their eggs so that their career may not face the heat of ageing and the fear of not being able to attain motherhood due to same.
Over the years, storage techniques have also been refined. Therefore, success rate, too, has gone much higher. In times to come, motherhood will soon be truly independent of the biological clock.
(The author is IVF Expert, Indira IVF Centre, New Delhi)
Dr Kshitiz Murdia