Egg Freezing .. The Lost Dream of Motherhood
By Suhad Al-Khudari
There is increasing talk about women’s right to undergo egg freezing in various Arab countries.
This process is done by removing the eggs, freezing them and storing them in liquid nitrogen for a renewable period of 5 years.
This occurs at the written request of the woman for use in a subsequent pregnancy.
The world’s first egg freezing was performed in 1986, and the first child born from a frozen egg to the same mother took place in 1999.
Women talk about their experiences with egg freezing in Egypt
Sahar Zayed (35 years old) underwent a harsh and difficult experience, while she was still a new bride who has not exceeded her two years of marriage.
She had to have an operation to remove her ovaries, and is now afraid that she will never have a baby.
Sahar recounted the details of her experience to “Sharika Walaken,”and she said: “I underwent a surgical operation during which the doctors removed my ovaries due to health problems, and I was also suffering from poor egg reserves, and unfortunately my husband is always traveling due to his work conditions.”
She added, “therefore, I am afraid that I will never have children, especially since I am now 35 years old and got married at the age of 33. I thought of a solution so that I could have children and fulfill my wish to become a mother. On one occasion, the doctor advised me on the process of freezing eggs.”
But when she asked another obstetrician and gynecologist, he told her that these were just experiments and were not confirmed yet.
After several consultations with specialists, Sahar found that the experiment was not yet guaranteed, as she described it, so she decided not to undergo the procedure.
As for Amira Sayed (40 years old), she did not go through this experience, but wanted to inquire about the possibility of implementing it in Egypt.
So, she started asking specialists in 2018 about the possibility of doing it. But the doctors’ response was shocking to her. They confirmed that this process is only for married women!
Speaking to “Sharika Walaken”, Amira said: “I wanted to know the details and the possibility of performing the operation if I reached the age of 40 and I had not yet married.”
She considered that “this type of operation is a good solution, especially in light of the late marriage age, and it is also a door of hope for women who suffer from reproductive problems.”
In 2019, Reem Muhanna (40 years old), announced that in 2017 she was the first Egyptian woman to undergo the experience of freezing eggs. She did not disclose her experience until two and a half years later.
She attributed the reason for doing it to the fact that she had not met the right person for marriage over the past years, and considered that it was better to freeze her eggs.
What are the operation procedures?
In an exclusive interview with “Sharika Walaken,” Dr. May Ali, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology and delayed childbearing, said that “women over the age of 35 along with cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, usually resort to this type of operation due to the low ovarian reserve that occurs as you get older, which leads to a decline in the quality of the eggs.”
She added that “whoever wants to have children after the age of 40, her chances of getting pregnant are somewhat reduced, and she may give birth to a deformed fetus due to the low quality of the egg.”
And about the procedure of the operation, May explained that “the woman receives medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce more than one egg per month so that the stock is sufficient. After conducting an ultrasound and confirming the size of the stock, we withdraw the eggs, either through the vagina or the abdomen.”
She pointed out that “in the first case, the vaginal membrane is vulnerable to rupture, so we resort to withdrawing the egg through a laparoscope. But it is easier to withdraw it from the vagina, after the woman signs a statement that the doctor is not responsible. Then the withdrawn eggs are frozen, like sperm, at certain temperatures to be preserved with specific characteristics in the laboratory, until the woman requests it at the right time to fertilize the egg with a sperm, and implant it in the uterus, to be pregnant by microscopic injection method.
What are the success rates of the egg freezing process and its risks?
Dr. May confirmed that she “has not met a single case of a pregnancy from a frozen egg, and this may be due to the somewhat inefficient storage methods in Egypt.”
“Follow up techniques abroad are quite advanced, so I advise women who want to have the operation to go abroad,” she said.
She pointed out that “the success rate of the operation is less than 60%, and it may range between 40 and 50%.”
She also added, “I find that it is not worth all this trouble that women may go through because of the operation. The medications used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs may cause health problems such as depression. Knowing that the success rate of the microinjection operations in which we cultivate a healthy egg and sperm, is not high.”
She explained that “the chemotherapy that women with cancer receive causes the destruction of the egg reserves and may lead to the interruption of the menstrual cycle.”
And she pointed out that “the stock of eggs after the treatment period determines the date of the operation or whether there will even be an operation.”
As for the risks of the operation, she said: “Sometimes, an overstimulation of the ovaries may occur as a result of the medications that the woman receives to supply the stock of eggs before the operation, which may cause depression and other symptoms. In addition there are the regular risks of endoscopy that are not related to the operation itself, such as perforation of the intestine or colon, which may occur in a small proportion.”
She pointed out that “this type of operation is highly uncommon in Egypt, and the percentage of those who have done it is very small, and it may not even reach 1%.”
For her part, Mona Ezzat, a researcher in economic, social and gender affairs, considered that “in the absence of any medical justification doctors have no reason to refuse to perform this operation.”
She added that “besides, everyone has the right to deal with their body however they see fit, without the others interfering. The Medical Syndicate is the body authorized to investigate the matter, when a woman files a complaint against a doctor who refused to perform the operation without justification.
Many women in our Arab societies demand their right to self-determination and their choices by opening a wider field for this medical option, which their right to resort to is limited to certain health conditions, and for married women only.
This is a violation of their freedom in their bodies and in determining the date of pregnancy and childbearing, which deprives them of the dream of motherhood in many cases.