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Are planned pregnancies the way of the future?

Jul 20, 2018

Missing your period, making a hush-hush purchase of a home pregnancy kit, anxiously checking for the result, two red lines that signal a positive, followed by elation in the family!

Who doesn't like surprises of this kind?

And yet, while it is natural to be elated, sometimes, the woman is just not ready. On multiple counts;

1. Physically 2. Emotionally 3. Financially

It’s not always about a career. Sometimes, there is a terminally ill member in the family, whose care could be emotionally draining or there could be financial constraints.

Yes, motherhood is venerated and considered divine. But this international women’s day, I’d like to reiterate that a woman should have a baby only when she is 100% sure that this is the right time and the right partner to have a baby with

This is about the ‘rights’ aspect. Let’s come to the scientific aspect of exercising this right.

It is well known that age affects fertility. The biological fact is that fertility starts to decline with age in both the sexes. The decline in female fertility is evident after the age of 30 and gradually accelerates after the age of 35. As per the world average, by the age of 40, only one in five women is able to conceive.

Among men too, age plays a role. While some men can father children into their 50’s or 60’s, male fertility isn’t age-proof. The quality of a man’s sperm decreases with age. As a man ages, it takes longer for his partner to get pregnant. There’s also an increased risk of not conceiving at all. Whatever the age of the mother, the risk of miscarriage is higher if the father is over 45. The children of older fathers are at greater risk of autism, mental health problems, and learning difficulties.

Similarly, the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) also is affected due to the age factor.

There is an increasing number of couples who want to become parents but are not ready at that moment. The good news is that planned pregnancies are possible today.

Some of the fertility preservation options for women include embryo freezing and egg freezing.

1. Embryo banking: If you are in a stable relationship or married – you may create embryos with IVF, freeze them and have an embryo transfer and carry your pregnancy when it is feasible to do so. Embryo banking is the practice of culturing embryos and cryo-preserving the high quality ones for a future Frozen Embryo Transfer procedure. The embryo banking process helps to alleviate a couple’s stress from the expense and physical demand of multiple IVF cycles. Embryo banking is trending among couples who want to preserve their good quality embryos for future family planning. Pregnancy success rates using cryo-preserved embryos are actually better than those using a fresh embryo because the woman’s body has not undergone the stress of follicle stimulating hormones and an embryo that survives the thaw process is of a good quality. 2. Egg freezing: If you are single and waiting to meet the right guy -- egg freezing is an effective option. A woman's eggs are extracted, frozen and stored. Later, whenever you plan to get pregnant, the eggs are thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos.

Another category that may seek planned pregnancy is young women, who themselves have cancer, and face the near-inevitable sterility of chemo- radio therapy. To them, the prospect of freezing their eggs, with even a low chance of genetic motherhood in the future seems acceptable.

Luckily for this generation, there is a huge advancement in technologies. The human egg, the largest cell in the body, is a tiny fluid-filled bubble and, during freezing, icecrystals are formed, that can damage the delicate structures inside. The introduction of egg “antifreeze”, verification (flash-freezing) have improved success rates for egg and embryo freezing.

The traditional paradigm, that women are forced to choose between career and a baby, could well meet its nemesis if Planned Parenthood works out. Women can make an empowered choice, and choose both, at the right time. Dr Anagha Karkhanis, Consultant, IVF and Reproductive Surgery, Cocoon Fertility.

 

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