By Dr Jyoti Bali, Medical Director, Babysoon Fertility & IVF Centre, Sectary, Delhi Chapter, ISAR & Secretary, Delhi Gynaecology Forum (Central) and Joint Secretary, National Women Wing, Indian Medical Association
Woman’s biological clock dwindles with age and this might result in difficulty during the process of conceiving and complications during birth. Sometimes, late pregnancy can even result in various abnormalities in the baby and increased chances of the child born with Down syndrome. Thus, oocyte cryopreservation (more commonly known as egg-freezing) is a method to preserve re-productivity of a woman so that she may choose to have her own biological child with sperm from a partner or a sperm donor whenever she desires to.
Today science & technology has made it possible to preserve fertility. Cryopreservation of sperms and eggs has become widely acceptable with people wanting to preserve their reproductive capabilities. The ability to freeze and thaw with retention of viability provides flexibility in ‘assisted reproductive techniques’ as frozen gametes/eggs/sperms can be stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 °C.
Freezing of human sperm is an established procedure and has resulted in thousands of successful pregnancies and birth of healthy babies. Not only can partner or donor sperm be frozen for therapeutic insemination at a subsequent date, but sperm banking provides the couple undergoing Assisted Reproduction techniques (ART) with a backup option if a sample cannot be collected on demand, unavailability of male partner or if sample quality is poor on the day the day of egg pickup. Cryopreservation of sperms is also recommended for men undergoing treatment for cancer like radiotherapy & chemotherapy or other chronic diseases. It has also proven helpful for men living away from family for long periods or are in high risk jobs and armed forces.
Cryopreservation of the eggs is relatively newer but now well established, amongst the modern ART facilities available. For the best chance of success, it is best to freeze your eggs before your 35th birthday. This technique has proven to be a boon for women who wish to pursue their careers and/or want to delay starting their family due any factors. Many single women are coming forward to freeze their eggs so that they can marry when they find Mr Right and not be stressed about their biological clock ticking. The cryopreservation of eggs/oocytes would be advantageous to the patient with ovarian disease or undergoing cancer therapy or any other condition that limits egg production.
Dr Jyoti Bali, Medical Director, Babysoon Fertility & IVF Center recommends that it is pertinent to offer fertility preservation to patients facing cancer treatment because a lot of patients are shocked by the loss of fertility at the end of their treatment, and there are multiple studies which show that this is one of the regrets for these patients. They either feel guilty that they didn’t do it or they feel angry that nobody informed them about it. I think that for many young men and women, it’s a huge personal loss to suddenly know that they cannot procreate.
In a cancer patient, chemotherapy, radiation, and even some immunotherapies can interfere with the reproductive system and affect the ability to have children. We can freeze their sperms or eggs or make embryos with their partner, which can be used later. However, due to lack of knowledge and awareness, the aspect of fertility preservation is often neglected.
Along with women, men have a ‘biological clock’ too, so freeze your fertility while you still can do it
What is the ‘Right Time’
For better results, it is preferred that a woman should freeze her eggs between 32-35 years though there are studies that state that the results of egg freezing are best until the age of 38.
While it is widely accepted that physiological changes that occur in women after 35 can affect the conception, pregnancy and the health of the child, most men do not realize that their advanced age can have a similar impact as well.
Hence it is extremely essential for both men and women to be aware that the biological clock is actually a reality, therefore postponing parenthood can be detrimental in the long run. But the good news is that advancement in ART has made freezing reproductive potential possible for both men and women.
For more information on sperm and egg freezing, please consult a Fertility specialist.