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Many women delay starting a family due to individual medical and personal circumstances, which can mean their most fertile years could be missed.
Some women wish to obtain an assessment of their current fertility status. While it is impossible to accurately predict an individual woman’s fertility, there are some investigations and factors that are useful. The single biggest predictor of female fertility is her age. Unfortunately a female’s fertility declines as she ages, with a steep decline occurring from the mid 30’s, and only very few pregnancies occurring once the woman is in her 40’s.
While most women go through menopause in their 50s, 1% of women will run out of eggs before the age of 40, and will therefore struggle to conceive, even at a younger age. The egg-timer test or AMH test (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) is a blood test that gives an estimation of a woman’s ovarian reserve (number of eggs left). A pelvic ultrasound may also give an estimation of a woman’s ovarian reserve, as well as assess the female organs (i.e. uterus and ovaries) for any abnormalities that may impact on fertility (e.g. fibroids).
Some women choose to undergo fertility preservation (e.g. egg freezing), so that younger eggs can be frozen now, and used to achieve a pregnancy in the future, even beyond the normal fertility years. Generally, egg freezing is done for one of two reasons; medical or social.
Unfortunately, some women are diagnosed with medical conditions, such as cancer, where the treatment (e.g. chemotherapy, surgery) may permanently reduce or destroy their fertility.
If there is time, an IVF cycle with egg (or embryo) freezing can be undertaken before any chemotherapy/surgery begins. An egg freeze cycle takes approximately two weeks to complete.
If chemotherapy/surgery must begin sooner, some women may consider ovarian tissue freezing. This involves a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery), at which time ovarian tissue is removed and frozen. The tissue can be defrosted and surgically implanted back into the body when the woman is ready to conceive, at which time she will then have to undergo IVF treatment.
With advancements in technology and science, egg freezing is becoming an increasingly successful way for women to preserve their fertility for the future.
To freeze eggs, a woman must undergo an IVF cycle and egg collection. This takes approximately two weeks.
The method of freezing eggs varies from clinic to clinic, however, the most effective method is ‘vitrification’.
Three eminent fertility specialists debated ‘The pro’s and con’s with social egg freezing’. You can listen to the podcast.
There are many things to consider when affirming gender, including fertility preservation. Both egg and semen freezing may allow for the creation of a biological family in the future, and should be discussed with your specialist before any medical or surgical gender transition treatment.