By Sola Ogundipe
Nigerian women of reproductive age that are not ready to settle down and begin their family have been urged to consider freezing and storing their eggs before they are 35 years old.
Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, an internationally acclaimed endocrinologist, and fertility specialist said that egg freezing has become increasingly popular among women in their late 20s and early 30s, even as he noted that age was a key factor for egg freezing success.
Ajayi, who is the Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, Asaba, and Abuja, while urging women to strive to raise their family on time, said: “If you are diagnosed with an illness that may decrease the quality of your eggs, you should consider egg freezing even sooner.
“By the time you get to 33 years and you are not married, I will advise you to start thinking of storing your eggs by freezing them in an IVF clinic because by the time you get to 35 years and above, the quality of your eggs will drop.
It is a better assurance when you store your eggs than when you don’t, ” he noted.
In a chat, he remarked that some women opt for egg freezing because they are not ready to have a baby, while others may embrace it because they are undergoing treatment for an illness that requires chemotherapy or therapy to a part of the body near the ovaries.
“It pays to embrace egg freezing as IVF may not save you once you are 40 years and above, because the same law that applies to natural conception is the same law that applies to IVF. While a woman, who is about 30 years, has about 20 -25 percent chance of conception, it is about 5 percent in women over 40.
“Also while a woman aged 30 has 1 in 385 chance of having a chromosomally abnormal baby, while for a woman that is aged 40, it is 21 in 66. When we talk about Down syndrome and chromosomally abnormal babies they are mostly associated with women over 40.
“So everything could go wrong with women who wait till after 40 years to have children. So the old teaching still stands which are women should try to conceive at an early age,” he asserted.
On Invitro Fertilisation, IVF, Ajayi said studies show that 50 percent of women will not conceive naturally, and even with IVF if a woman that is using her own eggs has a 5-10 percent chance of success.
“The oldest woman who used IVF to conceive is 43 years, she conceive and gave birth. So it is quite possible to conceive naturally, use your own eggs with IVF, but the chance of chromosomal abnormality is higher.
Also, about 50 percent of them will lose their pregnancy, because they are considered to be a high-risk pregnancy due to pre-eclampsia, placenta accident, CS is much more increase in women over 40.
Further, he said that age is physiological.
“It is not an abnormal thing. Age has an effect on fertility, so there is nothing anybody can do about that. So one of the things we have been able to do is to pull eggs together from different cycles and do PGS on the embryos and you can also use donor eggs.
“However, you can prevent all these by doing egg freezing. Before getting to this crucial stage where we will start thinking about using donor eggs, you could freeze your eggs long before that.
“Egg freezing will still be viable at any time you want to use it because egg freezing is like you stop nature, you stop the cells from progressing, so the eggs are stopped where they were when they were frozen as they are.
“The oldest eggs that were frozen were 17 years when later used, but if it is possible, please don’t put yourself in that situation, because it is stage of uncertainty, which has high risks.
He noted that while women want to be financially and morally stable before raising their children, they should strive to preserve their fertility too.
Rates of women getting pregnant in their 40s is increasing and have more than doubled since 1990 with nearly 1 in 5 births being to women over 35.
Assisted conception such as IVF is increasing the odds.