You’re in your early 30s and are considering having children, but your career has been your baby for the longest time. Don’t panic, you do have options.
Egg freezing is one of them.
As women, we have the right to shift our priorities to adapt to the evolving roles we play in society.
What is Egg Freezing exactly?
Egg Freezing is also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation. Women use this method as a way to preserve their eggs so they can get pregnant in the future.
Gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Uviwe Petse explains, “Cryopreservation refers to the cooling of cells and tissues to sub-zero temperatures (freezing) in order to stop all biological activities and thus preserving them for future use. This well-established process is both legal and ethical. The first human birth from a frozen egg was in 1986 in Australia and since then, more advances in the field have been made. It’s no longer regarded as experimental and is routinely used.”
Is the process complicated?
Dr Petse says the process involves hormonal stimulation of the ovaries. Hormonal stimulation uses the oral and injectable medication in preparation for the procedure. Once the ovaries are stimulated, they are retrieved and stored for freezing. The process is a painful procedure that requires conscious sedation.
You should be aware of the risks
Risk related to ovarian stimulation includes mild to moderate fatigue, nausea, headaches and abdominal pains. These adverse effects can be managed easily. Severe ovulation stimulation risk is rare with about 0.1 to 2% of patients, experiencing blood clots, shortness of breath and dehydration.
What’s social freezing?
Social freezing is a safe and viable option for women in our society. Dr Petse says social freezing allows women to delay childbearing to focus on their careers and not to be pressurised to make a baby when they’re not ready, or while waiting for Mr Right. “Delaying childbearing or stopping the biological clock happens. It’s known that with increasing female age, there is a progressive loss in egg quality and quantity, with this leading to a higher incidence of miscarriages and fetal abnormalities due to chromosomal abnormalities. Egg freezing gives women a chance to have their biological children later in life without the risk of the above,” he says. Women can delay childbearing for up to 10 years.
Egg freezing is quite pricey. The total cost for a procedure in South Africa ranges from R30 000 to R50 000. There is also no guarantee that freezing your eggs will result in a baby in the future.
What is the ‘right age’ to freeze your eggs?
The procedure is most effective when eight to 10 eggs are banked before the age of 36. “Women who bank their eggs earlier in their lives for social reasons might not even use them as they might fall pregnant naturally without needing the stored eggs,” says Dr Petse. The best age to freeze eggs is from 36 yrs of age and under. Studies show that the most cost-effective age is 37 years.