COMMON REASONS WOMEN CHOOSE TO FREEZE THEIR EGGS
Though as little girls many women can imagine themselves as mothers to their beautiful children, life’s unpredictable path may cause reason to delay this dream. In fact, there are several reasons women may decide to explore fertility preservation.
Age: Today, the average human lifespan is longer than it has been in the past, so it is no surprise that women are choosing to have children later in life. Unfortunately, with age, fertility is affected. Studies have shown women’s fertility rates decrease with the increasing age of women. As can be seen in the accompanying graph, the rate of decline increases between the ages of 35-3712,13. In a study involving women who received up to 12 cycles of insemination with donor sperm, 74% of women younger than 31 years of age conceived, as compared with 54% of women older than 35 years of age14.
This is largely due to a decrease in ovarian reserve — the number and quality of eggs produced per cycle. Women are born with a finite number of eggs, which steadily decline throughout their lifetime12,13. Moreover, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice and the Practice Committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, this age-related decline in fertility is accompanied by the increase in the rate of abnormal eggs and increase in miscarriage13. By preserving your eggs at a young age, your chance of having a successful pregnancy in the future is increased.
Social: More and more women are choosing to delay motherhood, and while this choice is becoming less of a stigma in mainstream American culture, women still fear that ticking clock. Whether you are advancing your education, pursuing a career, searching for that special someone, currently busy taking care of young children or you are just not ready yet, you no longer need to feel the added pressures to conceive.
Cancer: When it comes to treating cancer, doctors want to make sure they are as aggressive as needed to cure the patient. While medicine has helped save the lives of thousands of women, due to the aggressive nature of cancer treatments, a woman’s fertility may be compromised. Sadly, studies have shown that only 3-13% of women developing breast cancer are able to have children post-diagnosis15,16. The impact of cancer on fertility may be due to various reasons. First, the glands or organs that are key for reproduction and hormone production for fertility can be impaired. Second, depending on the type of cancer being treated, surgical removal of the uterus or ovaries may be necessary17,18. Additionally, once treated, cancer therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation, can decrease hormone production, further deplete egg numbers, increase the number of abnormalities in those eggs and even induce ovarian failure, which can lead to early menopause19-24.
The risk of developing premature menopause after certain cancer treatments increases with age, and older women are more susceptible to permanent ovarian damage5. Of course, the drug and dose used in chemotherapy and the size and location of the radiation field will determine the overall impact. For patients battling breast cancer, research has shown that pregnancy after breast cancer does not affect survival rate15,16,25. By adding egg preservation to your treatment plan, women going through cancer therapies can focus on their health now while increasing the chances for a biological baby later on.
Carriers of mutations such BRCA1 and BRACA2 who have been advised to undergo prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer can consider egg preservation and ultimately test embryos for BRCA status when ready to proceed with pregnancy.
Endometriosis and ovarian cysts: Endometriosis is a painful condition due to the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) growing outside the organ and implanting on various sites in the abdomen and pelvis. Especially when endometriosis is responsible for cysts growing inside the ovaries, fertility may be compromised.
Not all cysts are due to endometriosis, and these other types of ovarian cysts can equally affect this important fertility organ. Oftentimes, if the cysts become large, surgery may be recommended, which can also damage the ovary26,27.
Before ovarian health is permanently impacted, eggs can be preserved for later use. Egg preservation is highly recommended for future fertility.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): Polycystic ovarian syndrome is an issue in which hormones are out of balance. With these hormonal changes may come the absence of ovulation, which ultimately leads to infertility28. Many women with PCOS may need assistance in achieving pregnancy, and egg preservation at an earlier age can increase their chances.
Premature menopause: Long before a woman goes into menopause, her ovarian reserve begins to decrease. For most women, this begins in their mid-thirties, but for women with a family history of premature menopause, they may experience this decline even sooner29.
Furthermore, women who have genetic mutations (abnormalities such as Fragile X Syndrome or Turner Syndrome 45 XO) often undergo early menopause29. Through the preservation technique, eggs can be secured long before these changes take place.
Additional medical conditions: There are other conditions that may impact egg development and overall quality, as well. These include diabetes, autoimmune conditions, thyroid problems, kidney disease and eating disorders30-32.
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