Blog 06.01.2018

Freezing eggs could lengthen fertile lifespan of women

Preserving fertility in order to postpone the forming of a family (social freezing), is a feasible option for the modern woman. If eggs are collected from the ovaries and frozen, preferably before the age of 35 years, the threatening yearly decline of fertility can be avoided and the chances of having a child with the woman’s own eggs maintained for the coming years. Frozen eggs can be stored in egg bank for many years. Treatments with frozen eggs have been safe and effective, and the children have been healthy.

More and more women are thinking about freezing their eggs.

The decision to form a family is a private matter. Medical technology has enabled new treatment options, like social egg freezing, which have awoken a public discussion. In the discussion, correct information should be spread, the ethics of the treatments considered and the ability of the women to make individual choices respected. Such an open discussion will broaden the horizons of the society and bring the new possibility for the flexible forming of a family to the knowledge of those interested.

The average age at motherhood is increasing in Europe. Becoming pregnant gets more difficult by advancing age. Fertility starts to decline already after turning 30, and the decline gets steeper at 37-38. Freezing eggs for the preservation of fertility is a practical option. It also may bring equality to parenthood, as men are able to become fathers at a more advanced age.

The reasons for postponing motherhood include career choices, family situations and the lack of a suitable partner. According to international research, the lack of a partner is the most common reason. Social freezing means that eggs will be frozen at preferably 28-35 years of age, to be used in the years to come. In practice is will bring several more years of time to become pregnant, in a phase when natural fertility starts to decline and the risk of infertility rises.

Social freezing of eggs is more common in the US, UK and Sweden. Some companies offer it to female employees past the age of 30. This is a rational approach from the employer’s part, however, family planning is a private matter, and the employer should not interfere.

Freezing donated eggs has been giving good results. Freezing eggs for autologous use is slowly getting more popular. Biologically, the best age to freeze eggs would be at the age of 30-32. However, life choices and the eventual presence of a partner may only become apparent later in life. The chances of having a child from the frozen eggs increases by the number of eggs preserved. Depending on age, preferably 15-20 mature eggs should be obtained. Freezing eggs means that the woman will undergo a similar hormonal treatment as those having in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, lasting approximately two weeks, followed by an egg retrieval procedure. Before starting the medications, the treatment details and the prospects of being able to have a child, the legislation and the cost of treatment must be discussed, preferably by a doctor as well as by a therapist. Ovarian reserve and other medical aspects will be assessed.

The prospects of having a child with the woman’s own eggs are significantly better with frozen and preserved eggs, if the forming of a family is significantly postponed. Social freezing may lessen the stress of a threatening infertility, and will give a possibility of forming a family after a suitable partner has been found, or after life situations have changed. According to research, babies born after egg freezing and thawing have been healthy, and the treatment has been proven safe and effective.

Why should women consider freezing eggs?

It is well known that the number and quality of genetically healthy eggs start to decline when women get older. If you are not ready to start a family in your thirties you might consider freezing and storing your eggs before turning 35.

What does the procedure involve?

Women who decide to freeze their eggs will have ovarian stimulation similarly to IVF procedure. The difference is that eggs will be not fertilized but frozen and stored in Nova Vita Egg bank. If there is a need in the future the eggs can be thawed and fertilized, embryo(s) transferred into the uterus. It is important to understand that the success rate of IVF procedure depends on many factors and is usually around 30-40%. That´s why it is recommended to store more than 20 eggs to have a bigger chance for successful IVF treatment in the future.

References:

Duodecim 2014;130(1):7-8. Ennakoiva munasolupakastus

Ovumia Blogi 20.11.2016, Mirka Paavilainen; Ennakoiva munasolupakastus mahdollistaa joustavamman perhesuunnittelun?

Ovumia Blogi 15.8.2016. Kati Pentti, Candido Tomás, Johanna Aaltonen; Ovumian munasolupankki mahdollistaa raskaudet erinomaisin tuloksin

Key words: Egg freezing, social freezing, family planning, non-medical egg freezing, infertility, ART

Other Authors:

Eija Dorbek, M.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki

Katriina Johansson, M.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki

Jarna Moilanen, M.D., Ph.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki

Mari Sälevaara, M.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki

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Pekka Sillanaukee

Pekka Sillanaukee
Tegevjuht, medical biochemistry dotsent


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