The Art of Babies

Vitrification technology puts birth on your life schedule

Thursday, October 22, 2015 | 7:50 pm

HRC FertilityIs there anything more important or life-changing than motherhood? Can one ever put a price on a tiny pair of eyes looking up at their mother? Or watching a baby’s first smile?

But what happens when life gets in the way? What are the choices when a mother’s health is suddenly threatened by a a debilitating disease? Is that chance for motherhood, or a new life, gone as well? When a young fertile woman in her 20s or 30s has been unable to find a suitable partner, what happens then?

For decades, fertility specialists have worked at perfecting the art of freezing eggs and sperm to create a new life, when it seems like time and circumstance might not come together at the precise moment.

Dr. Jeffrey Nelson and HRC Fertility in Pasadena, longtime fertility experts, have been working on just this type of situation, since they opened their doors in 1988.

They understand the extraordinary value of freezing and saving fertile eggs for just the right moment in a woman’s life.

“This egg freezing technology has just finally come into its own because we now have good techniques to be able to successfully freeze and thaw eggs,” Dr. Nelson told Pasadena Now recently.

“Science has long been very good at freezing sperm and also freezing embryos,” he explained.

“It’s just that eggs were sort of the tricky one,” he continued. “And it took the re-establishment and perfection of a freezing technology called ‘Vitrification’ to finally make this something that can be successful.”

According to Dr. Nelson, there are two techniques for freezing. One technique is called Slow Freeze, a programmed slow-freezing method. The system consists of progressive steps in freezing the embryo. And then there is Vitrification, the new instantaneous process of freezing.

As Nelson described, Vitrification features a solution that the eggs and embryos are placed in—a hypertonic solution which basically draws the water out of the embryos or the eggs.

“It doesn’t actually freeze,” said Nelson. “It’s really more like glass becoming super-hardened. By eliminating and minimizing the water within the embryo or the egg, the possibility of forming ice crystals and therefore destroying either the embryo or the egg, is minimized.

“The egg contributes half and the sperm contributes half,” said Dr. Nelson. “And the egg and sperm essentially vanish when the embryo forms. The embryos takes the chromosomes from mom, the chromosomes from dad, and, then that obviously forms a new cell. The embryo within starts to grow and divide. That’s the unique whole live viable individual, the embryo itself.

While there has been discussion regarding the dangers or risks of Vitrification births, Nelson is quick to point out that there have been little or no differences in babies born through this method, as opposed to natural fertilization.

“We’re not seeing any increase, or risk of any bad things like cancers or any toxins or anything that adds to the consequence of using a frozen-thawed embryo,” said Dr. Nelson. “There has not been an increased risk of significant clinical issues as a consequence of this technology.”

And while egg freezing and fertilization is often thought of as a “last chance” technique for older women, Dr. Nelson emphasizes the importance of young women considering the technique sooner than later.

“When egg freezing started,’ he explained, “the majority of women who came in were women who are in their very late 30s, and in their early 40s. And that’s fine.

“But what happens with age, is that around the age of 35 there starts becoming a more dramatic increase in the risk of of releasing a chromosomically abnormal egg. And chromosomically abnormal eggs will usually not fertilize.

Thus, said, Dr. Nelson, “It’s really ideal for women, and now more and more people are coming in who are in their late 20s or early 30s to think about egg freezing. So that, by the time they’re maybe 35 or 36 or 37 or so, and they finally found their partner, they’re not limiting their ability for conception, based upon their reproductive age.

“I have a patient right now,” he continued, “who is pregnant with twins and the embryos that we used to create that pregnancy has been frozen for 15 years, and I have actually had pregnancies with embryos that have been frozen for longer than that.”

Along with Vitrification itself, which now seriously changes the babymaking equation, Dr. Nelson has some simple advice for hopeful mothers-to-be.

“It’s important,” he says, “to take a vitamin supplement, and a pre-natal vitamin is the best. Another good supplement is Co-Q10, which is coenzyme Q10.

But no supplement will replace excellent nutrition, he says.

“Excellent nutrition to me really involves eliminating processed foods,” Dr. Nelson emphasized.

“And that means significantly eliminating or diminishing sugar and eating real food, just eating real food. And by that I mean, fruits and vegetables and meat. And I would just like to encourage women to really think about their reproductive future and don’t delay,” he stressed.

“It can’t hurt to come in and talk to somebody like me at least.”

HRC Fertility Center is at 333 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena. (626) 440-9161. hrcpasadena.com

 

 

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