What is Egg Freezing ?
It is popularly known as an ‘Insurance policy’ for women who wish to have babies at a later stage in life. It is widely used by women who are undergoing cancer treatment as it can damage their reproductive system.
Dr Chetna Jain explains, “The process begins with GnRH analogues from the 21st day of the preceding cycle and continues till the periods come. Then the woman is given high doses of hormones called Gonadotrophins to stimulate her ovary and produce a high number of eggs. These injections are given on a daily basis for 10 to 12 days from Day 2 of the menstruation cycle. Simultaneously, the growth of the eggs is monitored. Once the eggs have reached a certain size, an injection of Human Chorionic Gonadotropins is given to bring in the final maturation in the eggs.”
Today, eggs are frozen in Cryocan with Vitrification, which is a new technique and has success rates of egg survival over 90%
After 30 hours, these eggs are retrieved from the vaginal route via a fine needle under anaesthesia. Based on the maturation, good eggs (around 5 to 20 in number) are frozen in liquid nitrogen which freezes them at -196C (-320F). “Today, eggs are frozen in Cryocan with Vitrification, which is a new technique and has success rates of egg survival over 90 per cent,” Informs Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, Gynaecologist and Infertility Expert, SCI Healthcare. The common side effects of the treatment includes headaches, feeling moody or bloated. “Though very few eggs have been fertilised worldwide, research has shown that the babies born have been completely re-assuring,” states Dr Tanya Buckshee.
How to boost fertility
“Stress reduces ovulation, fertilization and implantation rates. It can also lead to concentration disorders in the babies,” warns Dr Chetna Jain, HOD- Department of gynaecology, Columbia Asia hospital, Gurgaon, Cut down stress with a dedicated Yoga and meditation regimen.
Studies have shown that regular workouts improve reproductive functions. “Exercise increases the blood flow in the pelvic organs”, states Dr Asha Sharma, gynaecologist, Rockland hospital, Delhi. However one should refrain from over doing rigorous exercise as it hampers fertility.
Give up Caffeine
More than 300 mg of caffeine, present in coffee, chocolate, diet coke and other aerated drinks, is bad for fertility. “According to the British Journal of Pharmacology more than two cups of coffee a day can cut your chances of conceiving by 27 per cent,” Inform Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, Gynaecologist and Infertility Expert, SCI Healthcare.
Quit Alcohol & Nicotine
Smoking and drinking negatively affect egg quality and quantity. Studies show that consumption of alcohol and nicotine can lead to serious fertility problems like low egg count, miscarriage, genetic issues, premature menopause, etc.
With thriving careers and high disposable incomes, more women are talking the gamble of egg freezing as they climb the ladder or wait for Mr Right
It’s 6 am and Priya (name changed) has to catch a flight to Mumbai. Like always, her schedule for the day is chock-a-block full with a slew of meetings and appointments. Working round the clock, 32-year-old Priya, a company secretary with a Delhi based private firm, has no time to think about marriage and especially babies! “Though I am in a live-in relationship for the past six years, I have no plans to settle down before I turn 36,” she declares.
With a thriving career and a steady relationship. Priya is certainly in no hurry. But at the same time, she has planned and secured her money and motherhood well in advance. In order to avoid any hitches in conceiving a baby after marriage, Priya has already frozen her eggs. “Once in her life an independednt girl has to face this dilemma of choosing between the two most important things to her- career or motherhood. I did not want to compromise one for the other. So while I am still working on my aspirations, I chose to have my eggs frozen for a safe motherhood at even 40,” she explains.
The procedure has definitely given Priya a boost in confidence and a guilt-free life. As she says, “The pressure is off now and I can think of having of a family of my own at my convenience. “However, she is not alone in her forward thinking. Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston is rumoured to have frozen her eggs. The entire world also watched socialite Kim Kardashian getting herself injected with hormones in preparations for the procedure on her reality TV show ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians.’
As more women choose to wait it out before having kids, egg freezing is becoming a more popular and relevant medical option to have a successful and health pregnancy later in life. “The process expands a woman’s reproductive options against childlessness and allows them to overcome the increasing gap between the optimal age to reproduce from a medical point of view and the optimal age to reproduce from a socio-economic point of view,” states Dr Tanya Buckshee, IVF expert, Max Hospital, Delhi.
Taking The Gamble
Besides a prosperous career, the uncertainty of marriage and fear of infertility are two major factors fuelling this trend. “In comparison to the West, the concept is still in its nascent stage in India. But we have seen an increase of 20 to 25 per cent in queries regarding this, particularly from single women, informs Dr Asha Sharma, Gynaecologist Rockland Hospital, Delhi. According to 35-year-old PhD student Uma (name changed), it’s a fantastic option. She says, “It allows women to pursue their dreams without putting motherhood at stake. Age is no more an obstacle in one’s career or motherhood. It’s easy and safe, so why not!”
According to experts the chances of having babies with egg freezing are only 30 to 40 per cent but it seems that women are willing to take gamble. “It is my back-up plan, “says 32-year-old Aastha (name changed), working in a Gurgaon-based MNC. The anguish of a few friends facing fertility problem forced Aastha to look for a potent solution for late motherhood. “Unlike my friends I don’t want to go through the same emotional turmoil. My age and health fit the bill. So, without wasting any time I got my eggs frozen and got over with the worry. Something is always better than nothing,” she confirms.
Beating the Clock
A woman’s fertility is invariably proportionate to her age. “Younger the woman, better the chances of her conceiving easily,” confirms Dr Parul Katiyar, IVF specialist, Fortis La Femme, Delhi. However today, the life of an urban working woman is marked by rigid deadlines, long working hours, night shifts and cut throat competition at work, leaving no time to think of a family of her own. With her eyes set on her career goals, she is not willing to swap a promising career with motherhood at a young age. “That is probably the reason why this procedure is finding more takers now than ever before,” agrees Dr Katiyar.
“Your 20s is the best and easiest time to conceive but at the same time, it’s also the age to build your career. Often women are forced into parenthood when they are not ready for it. The pressure either comes from the spouse, in-laws or their own biological clock,” explains Dr Buckshee. Many of those that have a thriving career refuse to give in to the pressure of bearing kids before they achieve their goals. They prefer setting down at their own terms. “With egg freezing, now these women can delay child birth till they are ready for it. It allows them to have the pleasures of both- a great career and motherhood at a later stage,” explains Dr Buckshee.
Freeze On Time
The number and quality of eggs decline with the increase in age, hence the best time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s or early 30s (ideally below 35 years). Agrees Dr Katiyar, “Younger the eggs, higher the chances of conceiving.” But due to less awareness about egg freezing, women usually consider this option at a later stage. “Recent data reveals that the average age of women seeking egg freezing is about 38 years, at which they are less likely to benefit, “informs Dr Buckshee.
Experts believe that it is also a better bet than IVF. “If a woman waits until she is 40 before trying to bear children, she may need several rounds of IVF to conceive, which adds up monetarily. Also, at the age of 40 there is no guarantee that she will become pregnant even with IVF as her eggs are of far poorer quality. On the other hand, if she freezes her eggs at the age of 30 and then has them re-inserted ten years later, the chances of a baby are three to five times greater.” explains Dr Chetna Jain, HOD-Department of gynaecology, Columbia Asia hospital, Gurgaon.
Get Some Support
The entire process of freezing the eggs is as emotionally and physically demanding as pregnancy itself. “It’s an emotional journey for a woman as she has to first go through the mental battle of making the choice between ‘to freeze my eggs or not’. It is followed by a long discussion with her partner and parents, before the procedure,” states Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, Gynaecologist and Infertility Expert, SCI Healthcare, Delhi.
It’s an expensive procedure and often women take a lot of time to decide. Agreeing, Priya says, “Freezing the eggs was my suggestion but both me and my live-in partner decided on it together. Our parents were made aware and his mother was very supportive during the procedure.”
If Priya had her partner on her side, Aastha found strength in her best friend, who stood by her throughout. “It cost me over two lakhs but I am satisfied that I have done my best to save my fertility. I feel very positive and hopeful.’ says Aastha.