Elle McPherson and Angelina Jolie have been hitting the headlines with their respective battles with the female reproductive system.
Although their stories are very different, the issues that their cases raise, cover a whole range of fertility factors that women of all ages are facing.
To take Elle first, she has announced that her and her husband are expecting a child together using a surrogate.
Elle is 51 and apparently after not conceiving naturally in the eighteen months since their wedding, she decided to go the surrogacy route using her own eggs that she had frozen some years earlier. Egg freezing is still a relatively new technique in the UK (although much more widely used in the US). Records show that up to December 2012 around 18,000 eggs have been stored in the UK for patients' own use. Around 580 embryos from stored eggs have been created. These embryos were transferred to women in around 160 cycles, which resulted in around 20 live births.
Hopefully, all will go well with pregnancy, and Elle can welcome her new baby into the world due to her foresight of freezing her eggs. We don’t know at what age she did it, but generally speaking if you are going to consider this route, you should consider it as soon as possible. Having said that, it is a costly procedure and as the statistics show, a very small number of live births have resulted so far. We would always advocate that women, even of a young age, should get their fertility tested to gain accurate information about what is going on inside their body. This can then be tracked year-on-year to see how fertility is bearing up and by how much it is declining. By taking the annual tracking approach, women can take a proactive approach to their fertility, and if a woman is seeing her fertility decline slightly but doesn’t feel ready to start a family, then that would be a good time to seriously consider egg freezing.
We feel that egg freezing will become a more commonplace procedure as women delay motherhood for a whole variety of reasons, as well as almost 50% of marriages ending in divorce. Even women who already have a family, may very much want to have a child with a new partner, and as Elle has found, you may be very glad that you kept your fertility options open.
Angelina Jolie announced this week that she had had surgery to remove her fallopian tubes and ovaries in a bid to beat cancer, which has already taken three members of her family. She is taking a very proactive approach to her health and has been using the latest techniques in hormone mapping to refine a hormone replacement therapy regime which will ensure that her menopause, which she is now in following the surgery, is as manageable as possible.
Angelina said in her article in the New York Times, “It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.”
Angelina, we could not agree with you more. There are so many techniques available now to help with every aspect of fertility and hormonal health, that we urge women to become proactive!