Can you re­ally put start­ing a fam­ily on hold?

Is it re­ally pos­si­ble to put your plans for mother­hood on ice?

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - By Blair Mlotek

The first time Stephanie* heard About egg freez­ing was in one of her last law school lec­tures. Her pro­fes­sor—who she al­ways thought was a lit­tle wacky—sur­prised the class when she pro­nounced: “Freeze your eggs! Take what’s left of your loans and Just do it now.” Stephanie was ap­palled. Was this re­ally the most im­por­tant piece of ad­vice the pro­fes­sor had to pass on to her stu­dents?

A few years later, Stephanie started to hear sto­ries from older fe­male lawyers who were strug­gling to have chil­dren. Hav­ing Ba­bies wasn’t on their to-do list when they were in their early 30s, and now that they were ready, things weren’t go­ing as planned. It wasn’t on Stephanie’s list ei­ther, But af­ter speak­ing with these col­leagues, she Be­gan to con­sider her op­tions.

Stephanie Broached the Sub­ject of egg freez­ing dur­ing a visit to her doc­tor for a res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion. “Do you think I

should go off the pill?” she asked. “I’ve been on it for more than a decade, and I’m think­ing about freez­ing my eggs.” He gave her the usual “There’s no good time to have a kid” doc­tor’s speech but also ad­vised her that it would be bet­ter to freeze her eggs if she wasn’t plan­ning to have a child soon. “He’s around my age, so he gets our gen­er­a­tion,” she ex­plains. “My boyfriend also sup­ported me. He was like, ‘It’s your body.’” So, at age 33, she did it.

Based on the lat­est data, Stephanie was the op­ti­mal age for the pro­ce­dure. In 2015, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pub­lished a re­port in the jour­nal Fer­til­ity and Steril­ity that an­a­lyzed the best time for a woman to freeze her eggs if she was plan­ning to get preg­nant in the next three, five or seven years. They fac­tored in the prob­a­bil­ity of her eggs be­ing vi­able as well as how much it would cost.

They de­ter­mined that the best age in terms of egg vi­a­bil­ity is be­tween 31 and 33. But they also noted that a younger woman might end up wast­ing her money be­cause she has more time and is more likely to get preg­nant nat­u­rally. There­fore the best age—in terms of the eggs be­ing vi­able and cost-ef­fi­ciency—is 37.

When a woman is 44, her chances of hav­ing a baby jump from 21.9 per cent for nat­u­ral con­cep­tion to 51.6 per cent if she uses eggs that she froze when she was 37. Thirty-seven seems to be the sweet spot, but it’s a small win­dow: Suc­cess­ful birth rates dropped to the study’s low­est point (26.2 per cent) af­ter age 40.

So how many women are do­ing this? There isn’t any re­li­able Cana­dian data, but ac­cord­ing to the So­ci­ety for As­sisted Re­pro­duc­tive Tech­nol­ogy, the num­ber of women who chose to freeze their eggs in the United States grew by more than eight times be­tween 2009 and 2013: from 475 to 3,938.

Dr. Sonya Kashyap, med­i­cal direc­tor of Ge­n­e­sis Fer­til­ity Cen­tre in Van­cou­ver, says that two of the main rea­sons women opt for this pro­ce­dure are (1) they’re fo­cused on their ca­reer and (2) they don’t have a part­ner and don’t want to have a child on their own. She adds that egg freez­ing is the clos­est we’ve come to clos­ing “the fer­til­ity gen­der gap.” Women—un­like men, who pro­duce new sperm through­out their lives—have a limited num­ber of eggs avail­able dur­ing their life­time, and this num­ber (and their qual­ity) de­creases with age.

Although Stephanie didn’t want her name pub­lished, some celebri­ties have spo­ken openly about hav­ing the pro­ce­dure. In 2011, Maria Me­nounos re­vealed that she had at­tempted to freeze her eggs so she could fo­cus on her work but the process was ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful. (Since 2016, she has been shar­ing her con­tin­ued strug­gles to get preg­nant.) In 2012, Kim Kar­dashian an­nounced sim­i­lar news on

Keep­ing Up with the Kar­dashi­ans, and in 2013, Sofía Ver­gara went pub­lic with her de­ci­sion to freeze her eggs in the event that she and her then fi­ancé, Nicholas Loeb, might wish to have chil­dren. “We just wanted to plan ahead,” Ver­gara, then 40, told ABC News about the pos­si­bil­ity of her hav­ing more chil­dren, adding that at 40 “noth­ing hap­pens that nat­u­rally.” (In 2016, Loeb sued her for cus­tody of their two frozen fer­til­ized eggs.) »

In March 2017, The Bach­e­lorette star Kait­lyn Bris­towe an­nounced on so­cial me­dia that she was do­ing it. “I’m tak­ing con­trol of my fu­ture,” she tweeted. “For a woman, there’s al­ways pres­sure to have ba­bies, and this puts my mind at ease for when I’m ready.”

The sub­ject of egg freez­ing is also show­ing up in tele­vi­sion sto­ry­lines. In The Mindy

Project, Mindy Kal­ing’s char­ac­ter opens a clinic called Later Baby and makes it her team’s mis­sion to tour col­leges to ed­u­cate young women about the ben­e­fits of freez­ing their eggs. “Let’s be hon­est, guys, most men are com­plete garbage,” her char­ac­ter tells some NYU stu­dents. “OK, lis­ten, lis­ten .... When I was your age, I thought I was gonna be mar­ried by the time I was 25. But it took a lot longer than that. And, un­for­tu­nately, your body does not care if you are dat­ing the wrong guy or [if] the guy you’re with is also sleep­ing with the rest of your dorm. Your body and your eggs just keep get­ting older, which is why freez­ing [your eggs] is ac­tu­ally a pretty smart idea, be­cause it gives you a lit­tle more time so that you can try to find that one di­a­mond in the crap heap of Amer­i­can men. Be­cause even if you find the right guy, you’re gonna want a lit­tle ex­tra time.”

But does the pro­ce­dure re­ally buy women ex­tra time? Since the early 1980s, it has been pos­si­ble for women to freeze their eggs, but the sur­vival rate for thawed eggs used to be low. The egg is the largest cell in the hu­man body, and up to 95 per cent of it is water. The prob­lem with the old process was that when an egg was slowly frozen, it was more likely to form ice crys­tals. When it was later thawed, those crys­tals could crack and po­ten­tially dam­age its DNA. In 2015, the Cana­dian Fer­til­ity and An­drol­ogy So­ci­ety re­moved the “ex­per­i­men­tal” la­bel from vit­ri­fi­ca­tion—a flash-freez­ing method—bring­ing the more suc­cess­ful egg freez­ing process into the main­stream. Only 61 per cent of eggs pre­served via the slow method were vi­able when they were thawed, ver­sus 90 to 97 per cent us­ing the flash-freez­ing method. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Re­pro­duc­tive Medicine, of the flash­frozen eggs from women younger than 30, be­tween 71 and 79 per cent can be fer­til­ized, 17 to 41 per cent will be suc­cess­fully im­planted and 4.5 to 12 per cent will re­sult in a live birth.

So while egg freez­ing may not be the magic bul­let, Kashyap says it’s im­por­tant that women know they have the op­tion. “It makes them feel em­pow­ered,” she says. “Egg freez­ing gives women an op­tion so they don’t feel pres­sured to have kids right away. They can take their time to find a suit­able part­ner and feel ready. It’s not per­fect, but it’s bet­ter than it was be­fore.”

(*Name has been changed.)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.