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Oocyte Cryopreservation in India

Sperm and embryos (fertilized eggs) have been successfully frozen for decades for the purposes of fertility preservation and donation for men and couples. Although both sperm and embryo cryopreservation have become commonplace, oocyte preservation or the freezing of unfertilized oocytes (or eggs) for similar applications in women has not historically delivered the acceptable success rates necessary to drive adoption across the board.

Unlike sperm and embryos, oocytes did not survive the freeze/thaw aspects of the Egg-freezing process well primarily because the egg is the largest cell in the human body and comprised mostly of water. The water inside the cell forms ice crystals that destroy the egg during the traditional egg freezing process. Prior to 2002, the success rate of live births from frozen eggs was 1-3% globally, with few babies born from frozen eggs over decades of attempts. Fortunately, a number of advances in our knowledge of oocyte preservation, oocyte physiology and laboratory techniques are rapidly changing this fertility extension dream into a reality.

Oocyte Preservation provides the ability to preserve unfertilized oocytes, a profound development in the field of reproductive medicine. Egg-freezing should appeal to a broad range of women. Ultimately, the common factors that link all of these women are the strong desire to have a family and the willingness to take proactive steps to give themselves the best odds possible.

While some couples are comfortable with the concept of embryo freezing, many have moral and ethical dilemmas regarding the freezing of embryos. For those that believe that life is created at the moment of conception, each frozen embryo represents a life and, if unused, a life unfulfilled. Oocyte cryopreservation, like sperm cryopreservation, presents us with the possible opportunity to preserve one's fertility while avoiding these ethical dilemmas.

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Oocyte cryopreservation provides young women facing chemotherapy or irradiation for treatment of life-threatening disease, such as cancer, the opportunity to preserve their fertility. The importance of this can not be understated. Treatment regimens for many of the malignancies faced by adolescents and young adults result in the destruction of their gametes (sperm or eggs). The advancements in cancer treatments are also ensuring that many of these cancer survivors are living long, productive lives. Thus, the opportunity to preserve their ability to have children later in life is critical.

The professional and personal opportunities for women have exploded over the past 30 years, encouraging many women to postpone motherhood. Unfortunately, the biology of female eggs hasn't kept pace and women often face challenges starting their families later in life. Women, who are born with a limited supply of eggs, start to experience diminished fertility rates in the late twenties and this rapidly accelerates as they reach their mid-thirties. Childlessness is one of the biggest concerns for professional women. Studies show that the majority of the 33% of high-achieving women that are childless at ages 41-55 did not choose to be childless.

In fact, more than a quarter of high-achieving women in the 41-55 year old age group said they would still like to have children. For women age 41-55, the ability to preserve their eggs (and thus their future fertility) through egg freezing, oocyte cryopreservation, and egg harvesting gives them more flexibility as to when they can start their families.

Oocyte cryopreservation will allow those who need to resort to egg donation (the use of someone else's eggs due to the diminished fertility potential of their own eggs) more affordable female fertility treatment options. Today, when a couple chooses to use donor eggs, they must bear the cost of the donor's entire IVF cycle alone. The ability to use only the limited number of eggs necessary while freezing the unused eggs will allow couples using donor's eggs to cut their expenses dramatically. This will allow individuals who were unable to afford egg donation the opportunity to pursue having children.

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