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On air: Why shouldn't women freeze their embryos?

Alicia Trujillo Alicia Trujillo | 18:14 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

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Hi I'm Gillian St Lawrence, In July The Washington Post published my story "By freezing embryos, couples try to utilize fertility while delaying parenthood."

Spurned by the strong reactions I received from people, Alexandra Frean of the Times of London decided to interview me and just published "The girl who's put family plans in the deep freeze."

At age 30, despite nine happy years of marriage, my husband and I were not able to offer a child the time and financial resources we believed our child deserved. But, our fertility clocks were ticking. We knew that once we hit our mid-30's we would face significantly greater risks of infertility, miscarriage and genetic abnormality. With no solution to this dilemma we decided that we would not have children - until we found out about embryo freezing.

We did what I call Preservation IVF. We preserved our young genetic material by undergoing in vitro fertilization (specifically, a gentler version called natural or minimal stimulation ivf) to create five blastocyst embryos. The embryos were frozen using vitrification technology, which has a 98% successful thaw rate at the clinics we visited.

We plan to wait until about age 40 to transfer an embryo to my uterus in the hopes of having a healthy baby. We figure that with an extra 10 years we should be able to reach our goals and be in a position to offer our child the time and resources to give him or her the best life we can.

Preservation IVF touches on many sensitive topics - the ethics of IVF, the fear of having to undergo "Desperation IVF" due to age related infertility, whether there is a "right" time to become a parent, what makes a "good" parent, and whether "rich" people are trying to buy the perfect child. And I have definitely received some passionate responses to my article.

Many readers seemed to infer that our decision to use Preservation IVF to delay parenthood meant that we disapproved of other families' decisions to have children earlier in life.

For example, Rebecca Odes wrote on her blog:

"But if St. Lawrence is saying it's not okay to have kids if you can't spend as much time with them as you want, what does that say about 99.98% of parents in the world? Should we all have engineered our conceptions, and lives, differently? St. Lawrence's quest for optimal parenthood may be personal, but there's a broader implication."


I was also confronted by people who, for reasons they could sometimes not put their finger on, have a burning desire to see our plan fail. One woman wondered "are these people so arrogant or naive that they honestly believe that they, and they alone, can control so many factors in their lives that they will be able, at a time of their choosing, to produce a child exactly when the financial, personal and professional stars are in perfect alignment? The world simply doesn't work that way, folks."

The infertility blogosphere was appalled by my use of the phrase "Desperation IVF" to describe the emotionally fraught process undertaken by infertile couples, many of whom are being treated for age related infertility. Critics saw the term as an insensitive swipe at the women undergoing infertility treatment, rather than an explicit warning to younger women who could do something to avoid it.

Although many have pointed out to me that there is never a "perfect" time to have a child, there are definitely the wrong times to have a child. But Preservation IVF gave us the option to become parents and offer a child the best we can at the best time for us. Once I had completed the process, I felt the need to share my story with other couples who might also benefit from this option.

My husband Paul and I will be coming on the show on Friday to answer any questions you have about our decision, feel free to post and talk to you soon.


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