In Switzerland, more and more women are freezing their eggs as a preventive measure. This trend can be observed in several specialized centers surveyed by the 15 Minutes program. How is this process carried out? What are the motivations of these women? Two of them testify.
There is egg donation, intended for women who cannot have children. And there is egg freezing, intended for personal use later in life. Banned in Switzerland, the former is currently discussed under the Federal Dome.
The second practice is not only allowed, but is increasing. Beyond the cases related to a disease, more and more women are turning to it for personal reasons. Seventy-five, for example, did so in 2021 at the Center for Medically Assisted Procreation (CPMA) in Lausanne, compared to 50 a year earlier. The CHUV went from 18 patients in 2020 to 25 last year.
In 2021, for all of French-speaking Switzerland, Fabien Murisier, director of the CPMA in Lausanne, estimates the number of patients who have frozen their oocytes for personal reasons at around 200. The trend is there, although the situation is still incomparable compared to countries like the United States.
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avoid the pressure
Estelle* is 44 years old and has two children. The first was born naturally, the second by in vitro fertilization (IVF), with frozen eggs five years earlier: “She was single and professionally engaged,” she explains. “I wanted to meet a man without pressuring myself or him to have children. He allowed me to relax.”
An approach that his partner took a long time to accept: “I assumed that a couple who had to resort to IVF had medical problems. But here it has not been like that.”
“I put the odds on my side”
Virginie*, a 36-year-old doctor, also put her eggs in the cold, as fertility insurance. However, she hopes not to have to resort to it: “I would prefer to be able to avoid it. I have friends and colleagues who have undergone in vitro fertilization. It is hard and it is heavy (…) I put the odds on my side for the future.”
This is what encouraged their approach: “I was 34 years old and had just separated. I have wanted a child since I was very young.” It was her gynecologist who encouraged her: “She saw that my career was taking up a lot of space. And then she offered it to me spontaneously.”
Oocyte vitrification is a process that left memories for these two women. Estelle says, “It starts with a meeting with a doctor. We have to do injections for ovarian stimulation.” Virginie adds: “It’s not very pleasant. There’s a certain heaviness in the lower abdomen because the oocytes are growing. At that point, you wonder why you’re inflicting this on yourself.”
“Once this treatment is done, we undergo general anesthesia and the oocytes are extracted,” continues Estelle. “It’s easier for men. If we could lay oocytes, that wouldn’t be bad,” jokes Virginie.
The number of eggs retrieved varies from woman to woman. For her there were eight, for Estelle 16. Then they are stored at -195 degrees, in liquid nitrogen cylinders.
About 300 francs a year, for ten years.
In addition to the medical aspect, there is the financial dimension. Because it all depends on the patient. “Freezing costs around CHF6,000. The same goes for IVF,” reports Estelle. Storage costs are part of this, “about 300 francs per year”, specifies Virginie.
The storage period is limited. Swiss law does not allow egg storage for personal reasons beyond 10 years. “Usually, patients freeze them when they are between 35 and 40 years old,” observes Fabien Murisier. A way to limit the age of childbearing? “Indirectly, yes. We consider that a pregnancy after the age of 47 or 48 represents certain risks,” replies the director of the CPMA in Lausanne.
feeling of waste
According to him, the freezing quota far exceeds that of thawing, that is, the moment in which the woman decides to use her oocytes. Estelle knows the process well: “Of the 16, six could be used for the rest of the process.” Of these six, only two have been shown to be effective. One allowed the woman to become pregnant. As for the other? “It would be nice if we could share it with another couple,” Estelle replies. Currently, this is impossible in Switzerland. He is doomed to be destroyed, she acknowledges.
Virginie has a similar speech. Currently pregnant, she did not need to go through IVF. Her eggs are still frozen: “It’s very depressing to think that we could destroy them.” She thinks giving them away would make more sense.
>> Listen also to the debate between Céline Amaudruz (UDC/GE) and Benjamin Roduit (PDC/VS), national advisers, and Fabien Murisier, director of the Center for Medically Assisted Procreation in Geneva and Lausanne:
The vitrification of oocytes for personal reasons is not without raising certain questions. “This progress is very good, because it takes the pressure off women who do it,” observes Dorothea Wunder, a gynecologist at the CPMA in Lausanne and a member of the national ethics commission in the field of human medicine. “But the problem is not solved, because it is a problem of society. We do a treatment for a woman who is a priori fertile. In my opinion, things are not going well.”
“In the workplace, a man with two children is seen as positive, which is not the case with a woman.” However, with a social change, the question of egg freezing would no longer arise, according to her.
* alias names
Coraline Pauchard and Guillaume Rey