Japanese woman has baby through egg freezing, defying expert guidance


A Japanese woman in her 40s gave birth to a baby last year using her own frozen egg, an Osaka fertility clinic said Tuesday.

It is believed to be the first time in Japan that a healthy woman has chosen to use a preserved egg to conceive. There have been other cases where cancer patients have given birth using eggs that were frozen for later use to avoid the infertility risks that come with undergoing radiation therapy.

In February last year, an expert panel from the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (JSOG) said it would not recommend that young and healthy women preserve their frozen eggs for future pregnancy, citing health risks for the women as well as the relatively low pregnancy rates for the procedure.

The woman, a 44-year-old nurse from Osaka Prefecture who had her eggs frozen on several occasions before her marriage, thawed the eggs in 2014 and became pregnant through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using her husband’s sperm, according to a fertility clinic in the city of Osaka.

She gave birth to a girl last year, according to the clinic that treated her, Oak Clinic, Sumiyoshi.

Medical institutions in Japan are not obligated to report to the JSOG a case in which a healthy woman gives birth using a frozen egg.

The clinic started the egg freezing program for healthy women in 2010 and had preserved eggs of some 230 women by the end of last year.

The nurse is the first who gave birth among 17 patients who had IVF treatment using frozen eggs at the clinic.

“We would like women to know (the program) is an option when they think about pregnancy and childbirth, while we do not necessarily recommend having a child in the later stages of their lives,” said Miyako Funabiki, a doctor who was in charge of the woman’s case at the clinic.

Ran Kawai, a journalist known for her reporting on childbirth issues, said, “It is an unavoidable trend that women will choose births through egg-freezing programs as more women fully participate in society now and balance work and childbirth.”

But Kawai also said it is a priority to “develop a climate to encourage women to give birth at safer ages.”

Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, involves the process of growing multiple oocytes by use of internal medicine and injections, or by not using ovulation induction at all, but by collecting the oocytes and preserving them in liquid nitrogen.

After thawing, the eggs can be fertilized through IVF before being implanted into the uterus wall.

Oocyte cryopreservation previously posed a large challenge compared with freezing sperm or fertilized eggs. But advancement of technology since the late 1990s has allowed egg freezing programs to spread around the world as a form of fertility preservation.