Historically, women who were both older and infertile, as well as those who were diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) who wished to have a baby had limited options. The most realistic was to undergo in-vitro fertilization using oocytes that were harvested from a donor. Those who did not want to use donated eggs often made repeated, unsuccessful attempts at IVF, and very few succeeded.
With the advent of new technology and assistive reproductive techniques, women dealing with infertility in the Philippines have increased success rates. By selectively banking embryos that have been cleared of chromosomal abnormalities and deemed competent through rigorous genetic testing, IVF with the patient’s own eggs has become a viable reality—they can have children who are truly their own genetic offspring.
Extensive research has demonstrated that the chromosomal integrity of the egg, as opposed to the sperm, is the primary determining factor in whether the resulting embryo would develop normally. This likelihood is contingent on the age of the woman from where the egg came. For women older than 35 years of age, a majority of their eggs are considered aneuploid, or not containing the correct number of 23 chromosomes. Aneuploid eggs are considered incompetent, as are the embryos that are formed by the union of sperm with them. Incompetent embryos are subject to several failures, ranging from miscarriage, abnormal development, failure to implant, or a baby that is chromosomally abnormal, with Down syndrome or other genetic disease.
The six to eight years prior to menopause are characterized by the following features:
• Diminished ovarian reserve
• Reduced number of mature eggs at the time of egg retrieval
• Increasing resistance to fertility drugs
Since the proverbial biological clock keeps ticking, and the risks of a failed IVF cycle become more likely with diminishing ovarian reserve, women choose to use eggs from a younger donor to increase IVF success.
For women who are at risk and still want to use their own eggs, embryo banking is a viable option. Instead of IVF with Egg Donation, women and couples can have a baby with their own eggs. As long as they still have the ability to produce ovarian follicles in response to fertility drugs, this option is open to them.
The process of embryo banking has several blastocysts that are accumulated over multiple IVF cycles. After each cycle, the embryos are biopsied and allowed to reach the blastocyst stage of development. The blastocysts are then vitrified (cryogenically frozen) and then banked for storage. All biopsy specimens accumulated over several such cycles are held for as long as it takes to complete the scheduled IVF egg retrieval cycles. After further analysis, “competent” blastocysts are stored and transferred. With this method, a single “competent” embryo increases the chance of a viable pregnancy to 70%.