Should women freeze their eggs? A fertility expert urges women to say yes
If you're a women in your twenties, it might be a good idea to freeze your eggs, says leading UK fertility expert Dr Gillian Lockwood.
Dr Lockwood, an expert in babies conceived from frozen eggs, said that young women are still not getting the message about infertility.
She told UK paper The Times that while every girl should consider freezing their eggs, she is concerned about how this would alter a woman's life choices and they may wait too long to find "Mr Absolutely Perfect".
The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) explains that the procedure is not easy: it involves fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries so that the egg production is boosted and then eggs are then collected while the patient is under sedation or general anaesthetic. The eggs are then stored in liquid nitrogen.
Dr Lockwood warns that women are leaving pregnancy too late and the risk of not freezing eggs early will impact on fecundity (the ability to achieve a pregnancy that progresses to a live birth). The median age of Australian women having a baby in 2010 was 30.7 years, up from 29.8 years in 2000 and 25.5 in the 1970s. The median age of first-time mothers in 2010 was 28.9 years.
But as women age, fecundity declines once they reach their mid 30s, as does the number of eggs they have and the quality of the eggs. Because of this, the earlier women can freeze their eggs, the better, she says.
'A frozen egg from a 38-year-old will be better than a fresh one from a 42-year-old, but pregnancy is still not very likely.’
Dr Lockwood added that a 30-year-old who freezes her eggs would have a 30-40 per cent chance of having a child. After 38, this falls to 25 per cent.
According to VARTA, although egg freezing is not as routinely practiced as embryo freezing in Australia, most fertility clinics offer the procedure. While results vary between clinics, generally 70 to 80 per cent of eggs will survive freezing.
All subsequent outcomes – fertilization, embryo development and pregnancy rates – are the same as if non-frozen eggs had been used.
Everything you never knew about your eggsIt’s the largest cell in the body, yet the average egg is 10 times smaller than the full-stop at the end of this sentence.
- Every egg in your body is fully formed before you’re even born. The growth took place during your 10- to 20-week gestation period.
- Your body begins to prepare an egg for fertilisation 3 to 4 months before ovulation.
- Healthy eggs are smooth and spherical. If one or more of your eggs is oblong or develops vacuoles (mini moonlike craters), it could signal problems.
- Your eggs follow a strict path of order: the first egg created by your body when you were a foetus was the first egg that dropped during your first period. And so on...
- The average woman ovulates about 450 eggs in her lifetime; the leftovers just disintegrate.
- Yes, a woman’s egg has a yolk. It’s packed with proteins that nourish the embryo during the first three days.
- Eggs are monogamous – they’ll let in only one sperm. And then the zona – the egg’s coating – permanently mutates to make sure no other swimmers get in.
- A week after fertilisation, the embryo has already grown to the size of a pinhead. After five weeks, it’s the size of a grain of rice.
- The oldest frozen egg to yield a healthy baby had been on ice for 25 years. Brrrr.