6 Facts You Need to Know About Freezing Your Eggs and Improving Your Fertility

Deferring childbearing from twenties until late thirties or forties is alluring for women driven by their career, even beyond motherhood. In October 2014, Facebook and Apple made a public statement that they will pay for elective egg freezing for female employees. While there are other companies too in the West, which are covering the cost of elective egg freezing, Indian organisations and Indians haven't yet embraced the concept.

Dr.Bandita Sinha, Consultant Gynecologist, Apollo Clinic & Fortis Hospital fields questions on how women can beat the biological clock and freeze their eggs, in their pursuit of corporate success.

1. What are the benefits of egg preservation?
A large number of women are fiercely career-oriented and are postponing marriage and consequently childbirth. Once you are ready to start your family, in yours 30s, you can use these preserved eggs.
Early preservation is beneficial. Age is important because eggs start growing old in your 30s. Also, fertility declines with age. It is advisable to not freeze eggs if you are 35+.

Abnormalities happen when someone preserves eggs at the age of 35 or 36 and uses them later; the eggs are old by then.

The number of eggs is genetically fixed at birth. From the time of puberty till the age of 35, eggs start depleting with time. Girls should take the Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) test to detect fertility. The AMH test measures the ‘ovarian reserve' and identifies if a woman has fertility lower than expected for her age.

2. For how long can the eggs remain frozen?
Frozen or cryopreserved eggs are stored at -196 degrees, so there is no deterioration in the quality of eggs, with time. Healthy babies are born from eggs frozen for eight to 10 years also.

Eggs cannot be frozen just before menopause because it will not guarantee good quality eggs, since you have crossed your prime.
A lot of Indians haven't yet accepted IVF, so the concept of egg freezing is still a distant dream. Parents believe that freezing eggs will result in an abnormal child. But this is a possibility only if eggs are frozen after the age of 35.

3. How many eggs does one need to store to achieve pregnancy?
If your eggs are frozen in your 20s, chances of getting good quality eggs are higher-about 15 to 25 per cent. From these, about three to four eggs will be required to produce a baby.

But if the eggs are frozen in your late 30s, the number of eggs collected will be less, may be less than 10. However, these women need more than that (approximately 20 to 25 eggs) to get pregnant as many of these eggs will be damaged during the procedure of thawing.

4. What is the egg freezing procedure?
During the freezing procedure the water inside the eggs is dehydrated and replaced with anti-freeze in order to prevent ice-crystal formation. The shell of the egg usually hardens with freezing so sperms are injected with needle to fertilize these eggs using a standard procedure called ICSI.

Eggs are frozen using either slow freeze method or flash freezing process known as vitrification. Currently, vitrification is the method of choice for egg freezing as it causes less damage to eggs.

According to new guidelines, pregnancy rates were similar with fresh eggs and with eggs frozen by newer method of vitrification.

5. What is the recommended diet for healthy fertility?
A diet rich in antioxidants helps maintain fertility.

You should have five to six almonds and one to two walnuts every day. The Omega-3 fatty acids in these dry fruits helps in building good hormones. These dry fruits are particularly good if you are planning pregnancy.

Eat vegetables and foods that are rich in Vitamin E, such as tomatoes, which can reduce the body toxins.

Avoid junk and fried food as they contain free radicals that damage your hormones. It can result in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which affects fertility and pregnancy.

A good night's sleep is part of the diet. Stress and insomnia have a direct impact on hormones and affect the ovaries.
Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods.

6. Why should one consider taking the AMH test?
Due to environmental pollution, erratic lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits, a lot of girls in their 20s are facing premature ovarian failure.

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