October 21, 2014
Asian Pacific Post
According to a recent study in the medical journal Lancet every woman in her 20's or 30'’s should have the chance to freeze her eggs in case she wants to get pregnant later in life.
In response to demands from female employees, Facebook and Apple are now offering health coverage for freezing and storing eggs to women who want to delay child bearing. In Vancouver, Olive Fertility Centre has been seeing a growing number of younger women seeking to freeze their eggs.
April Gore, 27, always wanted to have children. But when she was only a teenager, she developed health problems and had one ovary was removed. April worried about being able to have a baby in the future and once she hit her mid-twenties she really started to feel the clock ticking.
"I wasn't in a relationship with anyone but I knew I wanted to have a child at some point. The fact that I had problems with my ovaries meant that I might have more challenges getting pregnant later."
April's mom heard about the recent advances in egg freezing on the news and told her daughter that she should check it out.
After discussing the procedure with her family physician, April was referred to Dr Gary Nakhuda, a fertility specialist at Olive Fertility Centre. "I wanted to do something to give myself a security blanket when I am still at my most fertile age," she said.
Social egg freezing is the term commonly used for the process of saving eggs for the future. A significant improvement in a technique called vitrification—where the eggs are frozen very quickly at a low temperature--has dramatically improved the success of the procedure.
"Vitrification has made successful egg freezing a reality," says Dr Nakhuda. "When eggs are frozen this way, they don’t form ice crystals that damage the genetic material and destroy the egg. Studies now show that younger women are as likely to get pregnant using frozen eggs in an IVF treatment as they are using fresh eggs."
The fact that April is fast approaching 30 and not yet in a position to start a family is a common scenario for women these days. The average age of Canadian women giving birth has gone from 27 years to almost 30 over the last two decades. And the number of women having their first baby after 35 has more than doubled since 1987, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC).
"I see women in their late 30’s and early 40’s who exercise, eat well and look young for their age and they can't understand why they are having trouble getting pregnant," says Dr Nakhuda. "The fact is that 40 is not the new 30 when it comes to fertility. Your eggs are exactly as old as you are."
Not only does the quantity of eggs decline as a woman ages but the quality declines as well.
Poor egg quality leads to a higher rate of infertility, more frequent miscarriages, and a greater risk of chromosomal disorders in the offspring.
Freezing eggs at a younger age may help overcome some of these problems for women who, by choice or circumstance, delay childbearing.
"Egg freezing shouldn’t be considered a sure thing," cautions Dr Nakhuda. "Unfortunately, even freezing numerous eggs cannot guarantee that a healthy pregnancy will always be possible. However, recent evidence suggests the success of egg freezing is now on par with traditional IVF, and is especially favourable in women under 37. At Olive we’ve created an information video demystifying the egg freezing process."
The process begins in exactly the same way as traditional IVF, which involves injecting medications that stimulate egg growth to the point they can be harvested.
However, instead of fertilizing the eggs with sperm, they are frozen unfertilized and stored until a woman is ready to conceive sometime in the future. At that point, the eggs are thawed and fertilized to hopefully result in viable embryos that can then be transferred into the uterus.
"I feel like I am doing everything I can to secure my future in the long run says April. "I'm doing it for my mom too. She wants a grandchild she can spoil."
Inclusion of all gender and sexually diverse people is an important value of Olive Fertility Centre. We are continuously striving to create an environment of compassionate belonging where all of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are supported, valued and respected.
Olive Fertility Centre resides on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Tsleil-waututh Nations (Vancouver and Surrey clinics), of the Lekwungen people (Victoria clinic), of the syilx/Okanagan people (Kelowna clinic) and of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation (Blossom Fertility clinic in Prince George).
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