Mon, Dec 04, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Egg freezing sees a rapid rise in popularity: doctor

COOL TREND:A fertility expert said the growth in interest might be caused by media attention for public figures who underwent the procedure and sponsorship by employers

By Chou Yan-yu and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The number of women who have their eggs frozen has grown rapidly over the past few years and more women are now opting for the procedure to preserve egg quality rather than for medical needs, a Taipei-based doctor said on Saturday.

In 2015, the number of women visiting Taipei Veterans General Hospital for oocyte cryopreservation began to rise, increasing to 51, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Division director Lee Hsin-yang (李新揚) said.

Last year, the number grew more than threefold to 184, Lee said, adding that only six women underwent the procedure at the hospital in 2012, which rose to 23 in 2013 and 16 in 2014.

Women used to opt for oocyte cryopreservation mostly for emergency medical needs, such as being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, or after developing endometrial cysts, Lee said.

Women whose husband’s semen contains no sperm — a condition called azoospermia — also opt for the procedure, he said.

Since 2015, many single women have requested the procedure for the sole purpose of holding on to the “golden period” for egg production and preserving their ability to conceive, Lee said, adding that the majority are white-collar workers between the ages of 36 and 40.

Lee said he suspected that the growth in interest is influenced by female public figures setting the trend, businesses sponsoring female employees to undergo the procedure and subsequent media reporting.

Although the number of women who are freezing their eggs has increased significantly, 90 percent of women who have their eggs thawed are still doing it for medical needs, Lee said.

Healthy single women only make up 10 to 20 percent of those who choose to thaw and use their eggs, Lee said.

While more single women are freezing their eggs, in reality few people use the eggs that have been preserved, he added.

Young women do not need to rush into the procedure, Lee said, adding that if they choose to do so, they had best undergo the procedure between the ages of 30 and 40.

The ratio of eggs from this period surviving freezing and thawing is 85 to 90 percent and the success rate of fertilization is about 40 to 60 percent, Lee said.

Once women turn 40, their ovarian function decreases quickly, and the quality and quantity of eggs produced are much lower than before, Lee said, adding that successful cases of oocyte cryopreservation still exist with eggs collected past this age, but the rate of successful fertilization is also relatively low.

Frozen eggs can be preserved for five to 10 years without affecting their quality, but women should try to become pregnant using the thawed eggs before the age of 45, or the procedure might pose risks to their health, Lee said.

Women past the age of 45 should not consider undergoing the procedure, Lee added.

Oocyte cryopreservation, including needles, medication, extraction, freezing and other expenses, costs about NT$100,000 to NT$120,000 each time, Lee said, adding that storage costs NT$10,000 per year.

Women who are looking to undergo the procedure must first undergo an examination and can only do so if their health permits, Lee said.

Under the Artificial Reproduction Act (人工生殖法), frozen embryos must be destroyed after 10 years, but the storage of frozen eggs and sperm can be extended with the written permission of the provider of the reproductive cells.

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