Egg freezing to lengthen the fertile lifespan (social freezing)
Preserving fertility in order to postpone the forming of a family (social freezing), is a feasible option for the modern woman. If eggs are collected from the ovaries and frozen, preferably before the age of 35 years, the threatening yearly diminishment of fertility can be avoided and the chances of having a child with the woman’s own eggs maintained for the coming years. Treatments with frozen eggs have been safe and effective, and the children have been healthy.
The decision to form a family is a private matter. Medical technology has enabled new treatment options, like social egg freezing, which have awoken a public discussion. In the discussion, correct information should be spread, the ethics of the treatments considered and the ability of the women to make individual choices respected. Such an open discussion will broaden the horizons of the society and bring the new possibility for the flexible forming of a family to the knowledge of those interested.
The average age at motherhood is increasing in Finland. Becoming pregnant gets more difficult by advencing age. Fertility starts to decline already after turning 30, and the decline gets steeper at 37-38. Freezing eggs for the preservation of fertility is a practical option. It also may bring equality to parenthood, as men are able to become fathers at a more advanced age.
The reasons for postponing motherhood include career choices, family situations and the lack of a suitable partner. According to international research, the lack of a partner is the most common reason. Social freezing means that eggs will be frozen at preferably 28-35 years of age, to be used in the years to come. In practice is will bring several more years of time to become pregnant, in a phase when natural fertility starts to decline and the risk of infertility rises.
Social freezing of eggs is more common in the US, UK and Sweden. Some companies offer it to female employees past the age of 30. This is a rational approach from the employer’s part, however, family planning is a private matter, and the employer should not interfere.
Freezing donated eggs has been giving good results. Freezing eggs for autologous use is slowly getting more popular, also in Finland. Biologically, the best age to freeze eggs would be at the age of 30-32. However, life choices and the eventual presence of a partner may only become apparent later in life. The chances of having a child from the frozen eggs increases by the number of eggs preserved. Depending on age, preferably 15-20 mature eggs should be obtained. Freezing eggs means that the woman will undergo a similar hormonal treatment as those having in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, lasting approximately two weeks, followed by an egg retrieval procedure. Before starting the medications, the treatment details and the prospects of being able to have a child, the legislation and the cost of treatment must be discussed, preferably by a doctor as well as by a therapist. Ovarian reserve and other medical aspects will be assessed.
The prospects of having a child with the woman’s own eggs are significantly better with frozen and preserved eggs, if the forming of a family is significantly postponed. Social freezing may lessen the stress of a threatening infertility, and will give a possibility of forming a family after a suitable partner has been found, or after life situations have changed. According to research, babies born after egg freezing and thawing have been healthy, and the treatment has been proven safe and effective.
Pekka Sillanaukee, Ph.D., Docent, CEO, Ovumia
Eija Dorbek, M.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki
Katriina Johansson, M.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki
Jarna Moilanen, M.D., Ph.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki
Mari Sälevaara, M.D., Specialist, Ovumia Fertinova Helsinki
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