Career first. Babies later. That’s how modern women plan their lives today. The downside to this is by the time they’re ready to get pregnant, infertility problems may have already set in.
As a woman ages, the quantity and quality of her eggs decrease. So postponing pregnancy to their late 30s or even older becomes a challenge.
In the obstetric word, 35 is already a high-risk case, according to Dr Gia Pastorfide, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist.
While aware that getting pregnant can be more difficult and risky later in life, most women don’t realize how early they need to start having children to avoid complications. In fact, Dr Pastorfide shared many women don’t think it unusual if they do not get pregnant after several years even while having regular, unprotected sex.
Not conceiving after a year of sex without protection is not natural, she pointed out. Obstetricians already define such cases as infertile. For women 35 years or older, it’s six months of regular, unprotected sex without getting pregnant.
Medical science, however, has since provided a solution that will allow women to build their careers first and still have babies when they’re older but with minimal challenges.
The answer is social egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation.
It’s a project of Dr Pastorfide, who has preserved her eggs before she turned 35. The good news is that the technology is now available in the Philippines, through the Victory A.R.T. Laboratory, run by Dr Pastorfide, and her father Greg, the in vitro fertilization (IVF) pioneer in the Philippines.
Dr Gia admitted it is difficult to encourage more career-oriented women to get pregnant earlier than 35. So, they changed tactics and instead disseminate information about egg freezing.
She told MIMS that a lot of patients who came in for consults were of the impression that egg cryopreservation was only offered abroad. And this is probably because the technology only came a few years ago.
“In the past, what was frozen were only embryos. Because they are hardier and can survive the freeze-thaw process. But now, technology is more advanced and freezing more fragile eggs is possible.”
Unlike freezing embryos, which is what was being done before, women can keep their eggs frozen even without getting married. Victory only accepts embryos, or agrees to perform IVF for married couples.
Why freeze eggs? Dr Gia explained it is to preserve reproductive potential. Asked about the timeframe for its use, she said “as long as a woman has a uterus.”
Of course, it’s not simply a matter of bearing an infant but also raising the child, so putting it off for far too long is not ideal. But technically, even a menopausal woman can still carry a child from her frozen egg, she said.
The advantage of oocyte cryopreservation is the egg will not age. “If it was frozen at 25, it will remain that age.”
According to Dr Greg, the campaign is not just to have women preserve their eggs, but to do it while they are still younger, between 20 to 25. “You don’t have to wait until you’re 35.”
His daughter reiterated that the quality and quantity of eggs go down after age 35. Normally, a woman is born with a finite number of eggs. As they age, a certain number will die naturally, thereby reducing quantity.
And while preserving eggs at 30 does not necessarily guarantee 100 percent conception than if this is done at age 40, the one thing certain is it will be a better-quality embryo.
Women with career goals should consider this option to lessen complications of becoming pregnant later. In the past, egg freezing was only allowed if someone was very sick or had to undergo radiation.
Dr Greg explained you did not want the eggs and future eggs exposed to harmful procedures thus the freezing.
Today, women can have it preserved because you are dealing with something that is not human, he pointed out. You are simply saving it because ordinarily they die on their own naturally.