“I am frightened – to be more precise – it is almost like a feeling of panic, when I think about the ticking of my biological clock!”
“I am going to have ovarian surgery, and I am concerned about the impact this may have on my fertility.”
Our experience has shown that these scenarios reflect the worries of many women. Most of them are under enormous pressure when it comes to family planning. More and more physicians have to deal with their patients’ desire to take precautionary measures. Modern reproductive medicine offers the option of female fertility preservation, which is often referred to as “Social Freezing”.
But what does this mean in practical terms?
By “Social Freezing” is meant the preservation of fertility. It refers to the possibility of women/men to have their oocytes/sperm frozen and stored for a certain period of time.
Prof. Herbert Zech, founder of the IVF Centers holding the same name: We are currently observing a strong demand, albeit mainly from women of an average age of 38 years. Their statements are, inter alia, the following: “If I had known about such an opportunity earlier, I would have come much earlier. There is still not enough attention being given by the media. Consequently, we learn very little about this issue. Many celebrities are having their children at 45 and beyond that age and my ovaries are as good as theirs.” Within the last months, over a hundred women have pre-registered with our center to have their oocytes preserved.
The cryopreservation of human gametes, of course, raises legal issues. As regards the treatment options in the field of reproductive medicine, the legal framework conditions vary from one country to another. The same applies to egg freezing as a means of fertility preservation / “Social Freezing”.
In addition to the use of cutting-edge freezing techniques such as the vitrification procedure, the IVF Centers Prof. Zech with their unit for fertility preservation “Ovita” are on the safe side under legal aspects, as has recently been noted by a Swiss court. Dr. Stefan Kohler, lawyer for the “Zech Group” in Switzerland: Already today, it is allowed to perform “Social Freezing” for non-medical reasons. The option is also available to women who merely intend to preserve their fertility. The Administrative Court of the canton of St. Gallen dealt in detail with all the legal aspects of “Social Freezing”. The court concluded that the retrieval and preservation of unfertilized ova is consistent with applicable law. It affects neither child well-being nor bioethical values.
There are various reasons why women might want to consider fertility preservation. This, of course, includes the wish to delay motherhood to a later stage without having to face an age-related decline in fertility (regarding a woman’s oocytes). The professional and social environment, however, may also induce women (and of course men too) to have their gametes frozen. Owing to longer and more intensive education periods, the start of working life is often postponed until later. Accordingly, people adjust their family planning to the changing conditions.
We have observed, however, that the factors prompting women to opt for fertility preservation are mostly of a medical nature:
• oncological patients prior to radiation or chemotherapy
• patients affected by „Premature Ovarian Failure“
• patients with massive Endometriose affecting the ovaries
• patients with Hashimoto-Thyreoiditis or similar immunological diseases
Safety and Success
The chances of success with regard to a future pregnancy are greatest when the oocytes are collected while the woman is still young. By using vitrification, a cutting edge reproductive technology for cryopreservation, it is possible to obtain pregnancy rates after the fertilization of frozen-thawed oocytes that are similar to those reached in “fresh” cycles.
Vitrification – Freezing of:
In conclusion, it can be noted that on the one hand “Social Freezing” might be regarded as a lifestyle trend, on the other hand, the precautionary preservation of unfertilized oocytes is an option when it comes to meeting the challenges of today’s family planning. Everyone should get an own idea which must be subjected to critical scrutiny. It should, however, be borne in mind that all treatment options offered by the IVF Centers Prof. Zech are performed in strict compliance with applicable law and ethical as well as medical principles. The focus is, and will always be, the individualized diagnosis and treatment of the patients and the safety and health of all persons involved.
→ more articles concerning this topic in the Special »Social Freezing / Medical Freezing – Oocyte preservation«