Tick, Tick, Boom: IVF, Freezing Eggs, and And What Goes Into the Process
The quality & expertise of the IVF lab & embryologist are important parameters that can affect the outcome.
Your thirties are the new twenties, they say. I was looking forward to my thirties too, but only if someone had told me about how the phrase is merely just an idea and the world won't let you believe it even if you wanted to.
The 'ticking time bomb' i.e. my biological clock is the new reality I'm still getting used to. The excitement I could feel in my relatives' voice when they suggested a potential match for me while I was in my twenties has now turned into concern and pitiful looks.
A couple of weeks ago while watching the Netflix series Masaba Masaba, and seeing the protagnist go to a fertility clinic to explore 'egg freezing,' it got me thinking. Do I want to have a baby in the future? I don't know. But would it be reassuring to know if I wanted to have a child, it would still be an option? Sure.
Masaba Masaba introduces freezing eggs in a very informative and sensitive manner.
"Society and patterns of childbirth are changing yet with the biological clock ticking, a woman still strives to find balance between pursuing her career and finding the right partner and starting her family."Dr Tanya Buckshee Rohatgi MD, FRCOG (London), Msc (UK), Diploma Sexual & Reproductive Health (DFFP,London) Principal IVF and Onco-Fertility Consultant, Max Super Speciality Hospitals, Delhi NCR
"Awareness regarding this process is still lacking even in the Tier 1 and 2 cities and majority of women are either ignorant of this procedure or daunted by the various myths and shame surrounding this process," says Dr Tanya Rastogi.
This is highlighted by the stark discrepancy between the number of women seeking elective egg freezing versus couples coming for IVF. We need to overcome the stipulations and stigmas of this now established medical technology and like cancer warriors embrace and share stories and the positive journeys to make a sea change in thinking that has already begun.
However, like every other medical possibility, this too has its pros and cons.
When Is The Right Time To Freeze Your Eggs?
Egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation, refers to the process of freezing a woman’s eggs. It can be an option if someone who wants a child might prefer to postpone it for a few years because of dfferent reasons. The eggs are removed from the ovary in an IVF procedure, frozen, and then stored at below freezing temperatures so that they can be later thawed and fertilized.
According to Dr Tanya, "the best time to freeze eggs are in the mid to late twenties or early thirties. However, most women seek this process after 35 years of age with their egg reserve declining and reducing fertility potential."
Older eggs have higher chances of having genetic abnormalities and miscarriage risks, says Dr Tanya. Hence, getting the egg freezing procedure at the right age is key.
Why Age Matters
"For women under 35 years, freezing around 8-10 mature eggs gives them a good 40-50% chance of having a baby and this declines to almost half, that is to the tune of around 20-30% when her age is 36 years or older with the similar number of eggs," says Dr Tanya.
"Studies on Indian women comparing their fertility with Caucasian women have shown Indian women age faster, almost six years earlier."Dr Tanya Buckshee Rohatgi MD, FRCOG (London), Msc (UK), Diploma Sexual & Reproductive Health (DFFP,London) Principal IVF and Onco-Fertility Consultant, Max Super Speciality Hospitals, Delhi NCR
Hence, there is a need for us to spread awareness about this so that the women are able to make an informed choice and seek timely advice on their individual fertility potential and freeze their eggs.
How Does the Procedure Take Place?
Before the entire procedure is commenced, the doctor will assess the regularity of the menstrual cycle, and perform a range of blood tests to assess hormone levels, taking a detailed medical history of the person while keeping fertility in mind.
The ovaries usually release one egg per month, and the lesser the eggs are available for freezing, having a successful pregnancy gets lowered.
Therefore, to maximize the number of available eggs, one will have to inject themselves with hormones at home between one and three times a day. Many women also take birth control pills till at least a month before they receive the hormone injections to suppress the natural cycle and increase the effectiveness.
During this process, there are regular blood tests taken to monitor the effects of hormone treatments.
What Are The Side Effects Post The Procedure?
Once the egg is retrieved, some women might experience side effects like cramping, bloating, and spotting. Some other unwanted side effects include:
The extra hormones that are taken during the entire procedure can trigger most of these effects.
The Upside and Downside of Freezing Eggs
"The egg freezing process has its nuances and does not come with any guarantees. It has to be carefully and safely planned to avoid risks of over stimulating a woman’s ovaries which can cause a condition called Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)," says Dr Tanya. The quality and expertise of the IVF lab and embryologist are also important parameters that can affect the outcome of the process.
"The financial costs of the process including freezing costs or the need for repeat cycles to harvest a good number of eggs at times affect a women’s decision to freeze her eggs whilst she is still getting her career established."Dr Tanya Buckshee Rohatgi MD, FRCOG (London), Msc (UK), Diploma Sexual & Reproductive Health (DFFP,London) Principal IVF and Onco-Fertility Consultant, Max Super Speciality Hospitals, Delhi NCR
Dr Tanya spoke about one of her patients who got her eggs frozen at 34 after her divorce. She got married again at 39 years. She felt quite relaxed about her fertility having frozen her eggs early. She got pregnant within few months of her marriage and has recently delivered a healthy baby.
Today, she talks about how freezing her eggs early helped her remain hopeful and helped her calm her mind and hormones that further helped her conceive without any hassle and now chuckles at the thought of planning her second pregnancy in her forties where she can potentially use her frozen younger eggs that would be of better quality.
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