This month alone, I have had five requests for referrals for egg freezing .More and more in my practice, I see that young, healthy women are delaying childbearing until they have had time to establish their careers and secure a stable and comfortable home life with the right partner. The risk with this strategy, is that delaying pregnancy increases the risk that a women may not be able to conceive at all.
FACT: At birth we have all the eggs we will ever have…..About 2 million….
FACT: At puberty we have about 500 000 left…..many would have died along our journey….
FACT: we are most fertile in our twenties…. Natural fertility then declines with age and is no longer possible after menopause….
ENTER THE PROMISE OF TECHNOLOGY
Traditionally freezing eggs was regarded as experimental .It was reserved for special circumstances offering hope to young women undergoing fertility destroying cancer treatment. This would make it possible to conceive!
It was also recommended for women already undergoing fertility treatment, who had religious or moral objections to storing frozen embryos.
Today, things are different……
Hollywood actresses are doing it! Jennifer Aniston, Sofia Vergara and even Kim Kardashian have been reported to have put their eggs on ice.
In 2014 Apple and Facebook created a sensation when they announced financial support for female employees wishing to freeze their eggs.
The best age to freeze your eggs would be under the age of 35 years. The younger the eggs at the time of storage, the better the pregnancy rates later on.
The actual process of ovarian stimulation and egg harvesting is not for the faint hearted….it involves examinations, timed ultrasounds and blood tests ; and daily self administered injections over a 2 week period. Once there are enough eggs, they are removed from the ovary through the vagina. This is usually done with the aid of sedative medication.
On average 5-15 eggs are retrieved per cycle. Most experts agree that about 20 eggs are needed per pregnancy. So more than one cycle may be needed!
Once the eggs are removed, they are quality checked by an embryologist and the good ones are flash frozen via a process called vitrification. The eggs are then stored in a liquid nitrogen chamber until they are needed.
When they are needed, they have to be thawed before usage. 70% of eggs frozen will survive the freezing and thawing process. Of the surviving eggs about 65% will fertilise using a technique called ICSI (the sperm is physically injected into the egg).
Before the fertilized embryos are transferred into the uterus more scans and hormonal preparation may be necessary.
SUCCESS RATES? 4% live birth rate per egg thawed after vitrification: so if 10 eggs are frozen then there will be a 40% chance of a live birth.
In South Africa egg storage is available in all the major cities. This service is only offered by clinics specializing in fertility.
WHAT DOES THIS COST? (2016 South African estimates for one cycle)
Freezing procedure – R28600
Medication for stimulation – R13000
Blood tests – R5000
Annual storage costs – R3780 per annum (5% escalation per year on this figure)
ICSI to conceive – R45 705
GRAND TOTAL: R96085
WOW AN INCREDIBLE FIGURE!
If you don’t have this kind of money on hand….. finance can be arranged. South African medical procedure credit providers exist. They finance elective and non elective medical procedures. Approval and pay out of finance requests can happen in as little as 72 hours at interest rates of between 18 and 22%.Clients are then given between 12 and 36 months to pay the loan back.
POINTS TO PONDER
Egg freezing is expensive and no matter what age you are, it involves a certain level of medical intervention. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security: THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO HAVE A BABY LATER IN LIFE… EVEN IF YOU HAVE STORED EGGS.
FREEZING YOUR EGGS IS LIKE INSURANCE : you may never need it, but it gives you piece of mind to know that it is there!