I recently blogged about my experience donating eggs. In this post I want to explain why I chose to write about it.
What I have just been through is what some companies are encouraging their female staff to do so they can be ‘career women’ without leaving it too late to have a family. Apparently companies like Facebook and Apple are offering to pay for staff to have their eggs frozen. It’s likely most women will undergo two to three rounds of stimulation to have enough eggs to freeze down for future use. Personally, I’d like to see companies make it easier for people to have families and successful careers, not lull them in to a false sense of security that all will be fine because they have some eggs in the freezer.
Putting aside that going through the process of producing a bumper crop of eggs and having them collected is hardly a walk in the park, or indeed, risk free, I’m not sure many people realise what the chances of having a successful pregnancy are using in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Cil and colleagues published a paper in 2013 with some graphs that make interesting reading. They did a meta analysis of 10 studies with 1805 patients and looked at how the rates of live births changed with the age of the woman and how the eggs were frozen (1). This is the relevant graph to look at, with the % probability of a live birth after implantation of between 1 and 3 embryos, plotted against the woman’s age. The dotted lines are for eggs that were frozen using a method called vitrification (VF), the solid lines are for eggs that were slowly frozen (SF).
As you can see, the probability of a live birth drops with age. At its highest, the probability is less than 35% for young women when 3 embryos are implanted, dropping to 5% when only one embryo is implanted into a 42 year old woman. To put all this in context, of the 11 eggs that were sucked out of me recently, only 6 were good enough to go forward to be fertilised. Of those, 5 were successfully fertilised but a week later only one had developed into an embryo suitable for implantation. I can’t begin to tell you how gutted I was about that. The little embryo has now been frozen down but will soon be implanted into my friend. Based on the data presented by Cil and colleagues, the chances are slim that it will result in a pregnancy which makes me both really sad and very disappointed but I’m going to have all my fingers and toes crossed that it’s the 5%. One of them has to be!