Why having a late pregnancy is quickly becoming a choice for many

Jun 12, 2018, 15:46 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Priya froze her eggs at the age of 33, determined that she didn't want to be pushed into a marriage that she didn't want, for the sake of maternity

Why having a late pregnancy is quickly becoming a choice for many

One of my patients Priya Gupta (name changed) gave birth to a bonny baby recently at the age of 38. Priya who is a successful software professional working with a multinational firm, knew that she wasn't ready for marriage. But she knew she wanted to be a mother someday. Priya froze her eggs at the age of 33, determined that she didn't want to be pushed into a marriage that she didn't want, for the sake of maternity.

Today Priya is as good a mother as she is a professional. Over the last few years, as an IVF specialist, I have seen many such Priyas opting for delayed motherhood by choice. Yes, as a doctor, I still advice my patients to go for an early pregnancy from a purely biological perspective as it's best to try to start a family before the woman becomes 35 years old. However, it is also true that delayed motherhood is fast becoming a reality of today’s informed woman.

Motherhood is venerated as greatest of all callings, however a woman’s approach to look at it has certainly changed over the years. And I believe, besides changing mindsets, advances in assisted reproductive technology has also played a key role in making this happen. A recent research suggests that women who know they can easily access In-vitro-Fertilization (IVF) are more inclined to focus on developing their careers and delay motherhood. The study focused largely on women in Israel, where IVF treatment has been free since 1994. It noted that ‘by giving people a form of insurance against later-life infertility, women who wanted to pursue a career were able to do so without having to worry as much about whether this would prevent them from having a family.’ Egg freezing and embryo freezing are two advanced fertility preservation techniques that women are opting either due to relationships, career, finances or a whole host of other reasons.

Why freeze eggs?

While the female body and eggs just keep getting older, freezing them can be a practical solution which can give her a little more time. Egg freezing is the process of retrieving some of your eggs from your ovaries, freezing and storing them to achieve a pregnancy later on. Egg freezing allows a woman to preserve her options if she isn’t ready for motherhood right now or is single and waiting for the right life partner. Later, whenever she plans to get pregnant, the eggs are thawed, fertilised and transferred to the uterus as embryos. Freezing eggs thus buys time and can give more choices in the future. For all its plus points however, it is vitally important to know that freezing eggs does not guarantee a baby, instead it offers a reliable insurance plan.

When frozen eggs are used to create a baby, they must complete several steps, they must survive the thaw, fertilize, implant and hopefully finally result in a baby. Hence until eggs are used for treatment and have gone through the above process, outcome can’t be known or predicted.

Embryo freeze- a game changer

If you are in a stable relationship or married – you may create embryos with IVF, freeze them and have an embryo transfer and carry your pregnancy when it is feasible to do so. Embryos are created using IVF and frozen by process of rapid freezing called by vitrification and stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at -196 deg Celsius. Success rates for IVF using frozen embryos tend to be higher than with fresh embryos.

The reason being that, the frozen embryos would have been created from eggs collected, when the woman was younger and the quantity and quality of eggs was good. These are only being transferred later. Also, the embryo that will survive the thaw process will be a healthy embryo and hence will have better chances of achieving a pregnancy. The success rate depends on the age of the woman at which the embryos were created and their quality at freezing.

This article is written by Dr Rajalaxmi Walavalkar, Consultant, IVF and Reproductive Surgery, Cocoon Fertility

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