16 April 2012
ByAppeared in BioNews 652
A leading fertility expert in the USA has warned of young women's serious misconceptions about their own fertility.
Writing in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Professor Pasquale Patrizio, from Yale School of Medicine and director of the Yale Fertility Centre, says that clinicians should 'begin educating women more aggressively' - but goes further. He argues that young women who choose to delay motherhood for whatever reason should be offered the opportunity to have their eggs frozen as an act of preventive medicine.
The growing popularity of assisted reproductive technology, fuelled by newspaper headlines and television specials of women having babies later in life, means that many women believe that they can turn to IVF at any time and conceive, says Dr Patrizio. IVF success rates fall dramatically with increasing age but most women are only vaguely aware of this.
'We are really seeing more and more patients 'upset' after failing in having their own biological child after age 43 so we had to report on this', says Dr Patrizio. 'Their typical reaction is, "what do you mean you cannot help me? I am healthy, I exercise, and I cannot have my own baby?"'
In his paper, Dr Patrizio highlights the fact that the success rate of IVF treatment using donated eggs is unaffected by the recipient's age up to the late 40s. As current egg freezing and preservation techniques now achieve outcomes similar to those achieved with fresh oocytes, the 'experimental' tag should be removed from such technologies, says Dr Patrizio, and they should be made more widely available to younger women.
The choice to delay motherhood must be based on a full understanding of all the consequences, Dr Patrizio reasons. Age-related infertility should be regarded as a medical problem, he says, and society needs to banish the view that 'social' or 'elective' egg preservation (where eggs are preserved for reasons not related to health problems) is selfish and uncaring.