For those who don’t want to give up their plans for a family but aren’t yet at the stage in their life when they want children, social freezing is an option. A recent Danish study showed that between the ages of 35 and 40, women’s fertility declines by 15% each year, and after 40 it declines by a third each year. It’s well known that the ideal age for a woman to get pregnant is between 20 and 30, but what if circumstances don’t allow it?
What if we don’t want to lower our standards for our partner, just to beat the stats? What if we finally got the chance to leverage years of studying and hours of overtime and landed that dream job? What if we moved to a new country, where we are still settling down and the circumstances simply do not favor starting a family?
Social freezing, or egg freezing, might just be the ‘additional insurance’ needed to realize your future family plans. We asked our head physician, Dr. Švabíková, the most burning questions.
Doctor, can you explain us in more detail what do you mean by the term social freezing?
Social freezing is a method of fertility preservation whereby women freeze their eggs when they are of an age when their bodies produce mature and healthy eggs. We store these eggs safely for future use when the woman’s situation for starting a family will be more favorable. Today, we freeze oocytes through a modern method of shock freezing; this so-called vitrification significantly increases the chance of them being usable after thawing for pregnancy.
Who should think about preserving their fertility by freezing eggs?
The oocyte cryopreservation method is suitable for women aged around 25 – 35, who are planning to start a family in the future, but whose circumstances don’t allow them to get pregnant at the optimal age when ovarian function is at its best. Most women who come to our clinic, do not have a committed partner, are at the peak of their career, or need to postpone pregnancy for other reasons. Egg freezing is also recommended before a planned removal of the ovaries or during cancer treatment.
Is social freezing suitable for women over 35?
Of course, however, I always tell patients that sooner is better than later. A patient’s ovarian function is certainly better today than, say, two years from now. So, although the number of quality eggs we are able to retrieve decreases with a woman’s age, she will still increase her chances of a successful pregnancy in the future by freezing them then.
How does social freezing work?
First, we will get you booked into our clinic, where the doctor examines your ovaries and uterus with ultrasound and takes blood samples for the AMH hormone test. This will reliably show the current function of the ovaries. The AMH level decreases with age and can be used to determine your chances of achieving pregnancy naturally, as well as check your remaining ovarian reserve.
Subsequently, the doctor will discuss the results of the examination with you during the same visit and propose a stimulation protocol based on these. Hormonal stimulation, the goal of which is the simultaneous maturation of a larger number of eggs, begins on the 1st day of your period.
Around day 8, our doctor will check how your ovaries are responding to stimulation and how many follicles are maturing. According to the findings of the ultrasound examination, the doctor will make plans to collect the eggs on approx. day 10 – 14 of your cycle. Egg retrieval is a short fifteen-minute procedure under anesthesia.
Two hours after the procedure, you can already go home accompanied by an escort. The day after the procedure you will be able to resume your normal daily activities.
How time-consuming is the whole process?
We can usually complete the whole process within a month. In total, you should count on two 30-minute visits before the examination and one day off work on the day of collection.
And does it hurt? What are the risks of social freezing?
Soreness after the procedure is comparable to menstrual pain. The procedure, like any other, has its risks. The most common is hyperstimulation syndrome (about 1 – 10% of cases), i.e. excessive reaction to hormonal stimulation. At our clinic, we always try to reduce this risk by administering modern medications. A rare complication, which occurs in 1% of all procedures, is bleeding into the abdominal cavity after the procedure. In most cases, however, the woman can go to work the next day after the procedure
Would you recommend social freezing to your relatives?
Yes. I know from my own experience what kind of pressure is exerted on women who have not yet started a family after their thirties. Although women should not take social freezing as a guaranteed security that they will have a child in the future, as a number of other factors affect a successful pregnancy and these also worsen with age, I still like to look at social freezing as a kind of “family insurance.” I know that under the current circumstances I am doing my best to preserve my fertility.
Is it possible to transfer the frozen eggs to another country in the future?
Sure, it is quite easy to organize a safe transfer to another country, especially within Europe. Having said that, the Czech Republic and Prague in particular is a very popular go-to market for IVF treatments for foreigners, including the U.S. and Canada, because of the quality and affordability of the medical care, so I would even consider subsequent treatment here.
What should a woman do, if she wants to investigate this option for herself?
She can book a consultation at Prague Fertility Centre and find out if this solution suits her.