Science and the media continue to report views on the optimal age for women to have their babies. Many fertility experts in the UK and the USA have report that women should have their babies by the age of 35, with some suggesting that 23 is the optimal age to start a family.
It is fair to say that with today’s social and economic pace of women’s careers and settling down in their mid 30s, it's no surprise that we see an increasing amount of women showing up at fertility clinics wanting to speed up the process of getting pregnant. However, egg freezing or cryopreservation is a relatively new assisted process, once considered to be an option for the rich and famous is fast becoming a way to bank and preserve eggs recently highlighted by the One Show host Alex Jones in the BBC documentary 'The Truth About Fertility’.
Egg freezing is a relatively a new concept for women to enhance their egg preservation, and in 2013 the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) announced that egg freezing was no longer an experiment due to medical advances overcoming the thawing issues which previously resulted in lower success rates than that of fertilised embryos (Robertson, 2014). Science is moving in ways that make it possible to address the growing fertility issues for many who put the family on hold in pursue of careers and economic growth.
Therefore is no surprise with such media and science reports that I see women in my clinics with an increased fear of being 'too old' at 35 and above trying to conceive. I also see in the support of research evidence the increase of single women thinking about their future fertility and looking into the possibilities of freezing their eggs whilst they wait for the right partner or saving to get onto the housing ladder for their family security
As a scientist myself I embrace developments which are forward thinking that make the impossible possible, but even with the latest egg preservation techniques it doesn’t guarantee egg quality for those preserving eggs.
Research shows that as women get older their egg numbers (ovarian reserve) decline, coupled with the naturally led infertility process in the form of menopause. However, I see more and more women in their mid-twenties and early thirties who have few eggs and have had poor quality eggs and embryos during an IVF process.
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) is present in the body and through blood tests gives experts an idea on how many eggs a woman has in reserve. Low egg numbers along with egg quality issues become dominant reasons for infertility for many older women, but can happen at any age and not just those over the age of 35.
Is having low egg numbers and poor quality down to genetics, living in the fast lane, poor lifestyle or age? Perhaps it’s all of these or maybe an evolution shift is fast taking place?
Bizarre as it is and not identified by research as yet, I see women that after being on a treatment program using nutrition, acupuncture and lifestyle changes many of these women’s AMH levels show improvements, even with repeated blood screening. For me the results show successful pregnancies and live births, but to try and place these outcomes using research criteria can be difficult.
If science can show negative lifestyles such as poor nutrition, smoking, lack of exercise and stress which can impact on egg or cell quality, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that positive lifestyles can equally have an impact on reproductive health. The results are there, we just need to find a way to explain the results using science.