Oocyte Vitrification

Recently it was announced that Apple and Facebook will pay the costs of egg freezing to female employees that decide to delay motherhood and put their professional career first.

Oocyte vitrification is an incredible advancement when carried out properly –i.e. when performed at the right time while the oocyte quality is good and carried out by professionals in an experienced laboratory.

The aim is to vitrify oocytes that will allow us to delay motherhood without having to turn to donor eggs. It is important to clarify that it is a possibility and not a security, as there are many other factors taking place –the quality of the sperm that will be use for fertilization, implantation capacity of the embryos, etc. 

That is the reason why we do not know the exact number of oocytes that we need to retrieve. Generally we advice to vitrify 10-12 oocytes, which is the equivalent of having the oocytes of a full year vitrified.

For a healthy woman younger than 35 years old, the chances of monthly pregnancy with normal sperm are approximately 20% and for a 40 year old woman 5%.

Therefore, the best time for oocyte vitrification is between 30 and 36 years of age –because it is not the same to have vitrified your eggs from when you were 35 years old than those from when you were 40 years old.

In any case, the ovarian age does not always correspond with the biological age; often it has a variation of three years. The ovarian age can be determined by studying the Anti-Müllerian hormone in blood (and making an assessment once the test results have been obtained).

Many women only consider vitrification when it is too late and, during the consultation, we advice against it for ethical reasons –we do not want them to have a false relief.

The majority of cases in which we vitrify oocytes in our clinic, have a very similar profile: women between 35 and 38 years of age, with a high socioeconomic and cultural status, who want to have children but they do not have a partner. They hope to build a family and conceive naturally but they want to have vitrified eggs in case their fertility decreases.

One cycle of oocyte vitrification costs around €3.000 and the maintenance per year, until their use, is around €400.

Although, Facebook and Apple’s initiative could be good news for their employees who were planning on vitrifying their oocytes, in my opinion it is a way of rejecting motherhood and therefore I am explaining the following arguments:

1. Who would dare to not delay motherhood or to say that there is a baby on the way in this type of company?

2. It seems that, companies offer it as a special incentive package to attract talented people. It seems that they make clear that they want clever woman but who defer motherhood. They want young people. After a few years when these women want to have children, the company will decide if they are still interested in them or if they prefer to fire them.

3. As I mentioned before, oocyte vitrification is normally based on a personal decision, not a work one. Generally, at the age of 30, professional education is completed. From that age, when a woman is working, you can find situations where a woman has a special professional project or, for work reasons, needs to go to another country for a year but, in most cases, they are temporary situations that force you to delay pregnancy one or two years, not to vitrify the oocytes.

Almost at the same time that this news was announced, a study was published concluding that women are more productive in their professional careers if they have children. Perform better than women without children and excel over men.

What do you think about it? Do you think it is a good idea that Apple and Facebook economically help their female employees to vitrify their oocytes? I heard different answers and most of them were well reasoned. What is yours?

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