Women who feel their biological clock ticking away, who have not yet found a partner and had children, are getting special treatment at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
The hospital, which delivers more babies – 22,000 per year – than any other in the world, is ready to freeze the ova of such women, many of whom are religious Jews in their late 30s who are not yet married. Freezing embryos for use when one meets a mate is not covered by the basket of health services. If required for medical reasons, the procedure is covered by the health funds.
Dr. Hananel Holtzer, head of the fertility and IVF unit at the hospital, said that ova are frozen for medical, personal and social reasons. Among the medical reasons for freezing ova is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and fear that they would be harmed and prevent a future pregnancy.
There are also women suffering from or carrying genetic defects such as fragile X syndrome who are at risk for premature menopause.
The Jerusalem hospital reportedly has the most experience in Israel in the process of vitrification, which involves freezing the embryo about 600 times faster than in the conventional technique. This very fast process allows no time for intracellular ice to form, thus avoiding trauma to the embryo. In conventional (slow) freezing, 20 percent to 30% of embryos do not survive the freeze-thaw, and those that do survive have less than half the likelihood of producing a pregnancy as do fresh embryos. In contrast, vitrified embryos have a better than 95% freeze-thaw survival rate, and a pregnancy generating potential that is comparable to fresh embryos.