How Single Ladies Now Preserve Their Eggs To Make Future Babies

This might come as a lot of shock to a lot of people to know that women can actual freeze their eggs for the future purpose of making babies. This technique which is more common in advanced countries is also gradually finding its feet in Nigeria too.

A couple of some Fertility Centers in the country now offer this service for women who want to preserve their egg. It’s all started when the IVF techniques started gaining ground in the country as more and more couples started embracing this technique. At this point, the fertility centers get an egg donor who will donate her eggs to be fertilized by her husband’s sperm. Along the line, the demand was on the increase since fertility challenged couple saw the success of this technique and this created the need for an egg bank.

Apparently, this also opened the eyes of some of this fertility centers that they could freeze egg for those who might also need it in the nearest future. Moreover, for years now, there have been decline in fertility with increasing female age. Unlike men who make sperm throughout life, women are born with all of their eggs. This number reduces throughout life and consequently a woman's chance of being able to conceive decreases as her age increases, especially after the age of 35.

In previous generations this age decline and likely development of infertility was avoided by childbearing early, today for many reasons a woman/couple may chose to delay childbearing for their careers or until they find the chosen ideal partner. While the advent of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) certainly will assist tremendously in improving chances of pregnancy, this too can be limited by age and egg quality, with sometimes the only option being consideration of the use of donor eggs. And with the recent scientific advance of fast freeze technology called vitrification, it is now possible to preserve an unfertilized egg through vitrification. BOLA AKINBOADE brings you the details of latest Fertility Technique, and why more single ladies are embracing it.

What Is Egg Freezing
Egg freezing is a procedure that gives women an opportunity to preserve their fertility for health and social reasons. Cryopreservation (ovarian egg freezing) is a progressive procedure that enables women to freeze healthy eggs to preserve fertility until they are ready to try for a child. The treatment may be offered free to cancer patients to preserve their ovaries prior to treatment, and as an elective service for financial, health or personal reasons.

Often done for sperm and extra embryos produced during IVF, cryopreservation is the process of freezing materials so that they can be used at a later time. Cryopreservation is a fairly simply process usually involving liquid nitrogen to freeze the sperm, embryos or eggs. These materials are then stored in special freezers until they are needed, which can be anywhere from months to years after they are frozen.

Why Eggs Are More Difficult Than Sperm?
Officially known as oocyte cryopreservation, freezing eggs is a much more difficult procedure than freezing either sperm or embryos. Women’s eggs are made up of tissue that is much more delicate and likely to be damaged during the thawing process. Unlike sperm, which are small cells with low water content, a woman’s eggs are fairly large cells with high water content. As a result, the eggs are more susceptible to forming damaging ice crystals during the freezing process which can make fertilization at a later date nearly impossible.

Another issue with freezing eggs is the quality of the eggs. Because female egg quality declines with age, the older the woman, the poorer health her eggs are likely to be in. Since an egg already has a high chance of being damaged during cryopreservation, freezing eggs that are likely to be in poor health only serves to further decrease your chances of successfully becoming pregnant later. Moreover, an older woman may not be able to produce enough quality eggs to make cryopreservation worthwhile.

How The Process Works
Freezing eggs is a rather involved process. First, you are given injectable fertility drugs daily to stimulate the egg production. Just before the person is set to ovulate, the eggs will be retrieved in the same type of procedure that is used for IVF. Once the eggs have been harvested, they will be frozen with liquid nitrogen and stored in special freezers until you decide to use them. A newer technique involves flash-freezing the eggs.

While the majority of the process is still the same, the eggs are instantly frozen rather than slowly frozen. The main benefit to this process is that it avoids the formation of ice crystals.

When pregnancy is desired, the eggs are thawed and fertilized via IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus. However, statistics from this latest technique reveals that 99% of eggs preserved by vitrification survive and 92% fertilise successfully.

Who Is Egg Freezing For?
Previously most attempts at egg freezing were for medical reasons, but however with new successful technique, it is likely that social egg freezing has become by far the most common reasons as an insurance against infertility. Therefore, the two primary reasons why a woman will opt to avail of egg freezing include;

Medical – Women with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or those who are concerned about premature ovarian failure or early menopause. Also, if a patient is diagnosed with cancer, she is likely to require chemotherapy or radiotherapy. These treatments will often result in infertility. If she has frozen her eggs prior to her treatment, she has a chance to use these in the future. Whereas in cases without egg storage prior to e.g. chemotherapy, the chances of conception is greatly reduced or in many cases these treatments will lead to complete ovarian failure offering no chance of a child.

Social – this refers to where a woman elects to preserve her fertility by opting to freeze eggs when she is young for use later in the event she cannot conceive if or when she tries to have a baby.

When Is The Ideal Time To Freeze The Eggs
Since many medical treatments can cause infertility, egg cryopreservation was one way to preserve a woman’s fertility. But, increasingly, healthy women are choosing the procedure to stop the clock on their fertility while they focus on life, education and careers.

Nowadays, most women can have access to this technology. As a result, women who are still young and healthy but know that they would like to wait until they are in their late 30s before starting their families have also begun to take advantage of this technology. The ideal time to freeze the eggs is when a lady is in her 20s or early 30s. Egg freezing after 37 is usually not recommended as both the quantity and number of a woman’s eggs decline rapidly around then. The age of a woman at the time of egg collection is the biggest determinant of a successful outcome to egg freezing, and any subsequent chance of pregnancy and live birth.
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