When women extend childbearing years: Busting myths about egg freezing

Egg freezing allows women to extend their childbearing years. Photo: Syda Productions / Shutterstock

New Delhi: A ticking biological clock is the primary reason women choose to freeze their eggs. A woman's fertility peaks during her 20s and starts to decline once she reaches 30. In fact, by the time a healthy woman reaches age 30, her chances of conceiving start to see a decline coupled with other fertility related issues as well.

In the current scenario, more women are postponing family planning until their 30s and early-40s due to several personal and professional commitments. One of the options that can be considered is fertility preservation through egg freezing that allows women to extend their childbearing years by preserving their younger, healthier eggs, says Dr.Ramya Gowda, consultant -- reproductive medicine, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru.

She tells IANSlife: "While it is not surprising that egg freezing has gained a lot of attention amongst women of different age groups but unfortunately often it has also created many misconceptions."

Dr Gowda helps understand some of those myths associated with egg freezing.

Myth 1: Egg freezing is trial and error option or it is experimental

Prior to 2013, anyone who chose egg freezing felt that the procedure was fairly new and there wasn't enough data available on the reasons to pursue this method. However, scientific data indicated that egg freezing is safe, effective and no longer considered experimental. The processes used in egg freezing -- like ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and even cryopreservation -- have actually been in use for decades and are absolutely safe.

Myth 2: Egg freezing is life threatening to both woman and her child and no babies have been born from frozen eggs

There's no evidence that ovarian stimulation and egg freezing causes harm to women or their potential future offspring. Extensive studies have shown that there have been no documented differences in the risk of birth defects, chromosomal anomalies, or pregnancy complications when using frozen eggs or embryos (as compared to fresh eggs or embryos)..Generally, side effects are uncommon, and those that are experienced are usually minor. Freezing eggs may increase your chances of having a baby later in life, Egg freezing is not an insurance policy, but it is a powerful tool to help give more choice to women.

Myth 3: The process is painful and time-consuming

The hormone medication injections needed to begin the process are typically taken once or twice a day for 8 --11 days. During this period, a doctor will check in on your progress with 5 --7 brief visits to monitor how your body is responding to the medication. When you're ready, the doctor will finish the process by retrieving your eggs in an egg retrieval surgery. While the word "surgery" may sound scary, there's no need to stress about this part of the procedure as there are no stitches, no cuts, and it'll only take about 15 minutes. The whole process takes about two weeks from start to finish.

Myth 4: Freezing eggs at present can make you infertile in future

One of the important aspects of debunking egg freezing myths is understanding that extensive studies have shown no evidence that the process of egg freezing is harmful to a woman's future fertility. Because egg freezing involves removing eggs from the body, many mistakenly think the process decreases the number of eggs available for a future pregnancy. This is a myth and every month women ovulate. During the egg freezing process, we use medication to ensure that multiple eggs develop and mature, preserving some of those otherwise "lost" eggs for use at a later time.

Myth 5: Fresh eggs are better than frozen one

Current data has shown more healthy pregnancies actually result from frozen egg cycles than fresh egg cycles. In addition, research has found no difference in the risk of birth defects, chromosomal anomalies or pregnancy complications when comparing pregnancies that result from frozen eggs versus fresh eggs. It is very important to understand that when it comes to fertility -- the age of your eggs matters the most. The younger your eggs are, the healthier they will be. Starting at age 35, live birth rates begin to decline by 10% every two years for women who use their own eggs of the same age during in vitro fertilization.

Myth 6: Egg freezing is only an option for financially affluent class or women with elite careers

Women choose to freeze their eggs for all sorts of reasons, both medical and social. Many women choose to freeze their eggs due to a medical diagnosis others choose to freeze because of they do not believe that they have the right environment to have a child, for example, due to financial constraints, not having a partner or where there are other commitments to be balanced. There are lots of different reasons and every person approaches egg freezing with a unique perspective. In the present day scenario, majority of women who freeze their eggs do so because they haven't yet found the right partner.

Myth 7: Egg freezing is a good insurance policy for women in their late 30s

It's actually best to freeze your eggs before you turn 35. Fertility rates gradually decline as we get older, so you have a higher chance of success if you freeze your eggs at a younger age. Some women in their 20s aren't really thinking about when they want to have kids, so it tends to be most beneficial for women in their early 30s, maybe they haven't settled down yet, but they're thinking about it and their eggs are still good."

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