Frequently Asked Questions

 

Since when does “Ovita” exist?

We have been offering the cryopreservation of unfertilized oocytes in the context of fertility preservation since 2010. Our IVF centers that are dedicated to treat unwanted childlessness have dealt intensively with these issues for more than 25 years. Thanks to excellent pioneering achievements, such as the development of special freezing techniques (vitrification) to cryopreserve eggs at different stages (unfertilized, fertilized eggs from day 1 to day 6 of embryonic development) our centers can draw on a great deal of experience.

However, only upon implementation of the novel freezing technique using “Vitrisafe®” in whose development we played a major role, we are actually able to successfully thaw more than 90 % of the frozen eggs. We now offer this technique to take precautionary steps towards fertility preservation using the motto “I choose the right moment”. Ovita itself is not a company. Of course we have already performed oocyte cryopreservation, e.g. on cancer patients when these new freezing techniques had not yet been developed always using cutting-edge freezing techniques recognized at the time. Up until 3 years ago, this was performed at our centers under the working title “Scientific development”.

 

Ovita has been one of the pioneer companies in the field of cryopreservation: How long have you been doing this?

 

Please see above.

 

How many times a year?

 

Currently, we are carrying out initial conversations on these issues on a daily basis. We have witnessed growing demand since we first started offering this procedure.

 

What are the main reasons why women choose this option?

 

Women who haven’t found the right partner yet, women who want to have children but postpone childbearing to a later age, women whose partners are not yet ready to start a family...

 

What is the shelf life of cryopreserved oocytes?

 

In principle, their shelf life is unlimited since they can be stored at –190° Celsius in a closed system. The oocytes are not exposed to any pollutants from the environment, thus preventing the accumulation of harmful substances (fine dust particles, odorous substances etc.) in the cells. This is a key contributing factor which prompted us to start offering this particular procedure! What is the average number of oocytes kept in storage for one woman? Are there only a few or several dozen oocytes? It depends on the woman’s age. A healthy woman up to the age of 35 should have about 10 oocytes frozen. Beyond that age, women will need, depending on their medical findings, 20 – 30 oocytes (1 to 3 stimulation cycles). In Switzerland, it is currently allowed to store cryopreserved oocytes for up to 5 years. Efforts are being made to increase this storage period.

 

Can the oocytes get damaged?

 

No. Please refer to the above information regarding “Vitrisafe®” - the answer is no since the cells are hermetically isolated from all hazardous environmental influences.

 

Potential risks for the woman?

 

Although the risks are low, every woman needs specific information and counseling.

 

Does it make sense to use these cryopreserved eggs in a future in vitro fertilization and transfer them to the woman’s womb without having previously performed pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in order to check whether they survived the freezing/thawing process without damage?

 

This is a subject to be discussed in the future, if, at a later stage, the woman may have to deal with fertility issues. If, in such a case, the infertility issues are not due to genetic problems, PGD would not be appropriate. P.S. Details on these topics had been discussed at a World Congress that was held in Bregenz in May 2012. See http://www.pgdis-2012.com/

 

Would it therefore be possible for 20 year old women to have their oocytes frozen while they’re still young, thus being able to pursue their careers (as your website so aptly states) and delay childbearing to their mid-forties using these young, fresh eggs to fulfill their desire to have children?

 

Yes, but only if it turns out that these women cannot then get pregnant naturally. These oocytes may only be used in compliance with the current legal provisions. It is, however, possible to use these cryopreserved eggs in an IVF treatment at our clinic in Pilsen (CZ), where such indication is not required. We have to strictly adhere to the respective national legal regulations.

 

Does this really make sense?

 

Yes, it does. The current legislation will certainly adapt to the changed socio-economic structures within the next few years!

Is this method recognized and paid for by health insurers provided that certain medical criteria are met?

No, unfortunately not. Currently, the health insurance companies do not even cover the cost of fertility treatment involving IVF, even in cases, where sterility has been clearly diagnosed. This is indeed very regrettable.

 

From an ethical point of view, isn’t it somewhat questionable if companies from the health sector promote having a professional career and postpone childbearing until later in life? What if it doesn’t work out? In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect method and thus IVF or ICSI might fail.

 

We are mortals not gods and therefore cannot work wonders, but we are committed to excellence and do our very best each day to provide high-quality treatment. This has proven successful a thousand times over in treating “unwanted childlessness”. We have now turned our attention to women who do not want to have a baby right now, since, for the first time, we can rely on a procedure called Vitrisafe®, providing a safe, closed system to store oocytes.

 

What would happen to the frozen oocytes if the woman died? Is the husband entitled to use them?

 

Upon the death of the woman, her oocytes will be discarded immediately and not used for any other purpose.

 

Do you provide a guarantee or would it be just bad luck if the implantation failed at age 45?

 

There is no such thing as zero risk in medical treatment. Neither do you get a guarantee, for example, at your dentist’s! We are honestly striving to provide medical service to the best of our knowledge and in accordance with the current state of the art. It would be dubious if we offered such guarantees. We do not offer therapy after the menopause.

 

Why do you think that the future belongs to “social egg freezing”?

 

This is both a consequence of the above reasons and the current demographic developments. Women do need more personal freedom, and we are therefore offering our novel technique to support them – just that, nothing more and nothing less.

 

In your opinion, the public sector should cover part of the costs related to the storage of cryopreserved oocytes? Could you please specify the reasons for your demand?

 

We are committed to supporting health provision as well as women’s health and their individual freedom. Could there be anything better?

 

How long have you been working in the field of in vitro fertilization?

 

I habilitated in this field and have been working for about 15 years, with increasing intensity, in the field of reproductive medicine and genetics. In this context, I am able to take advantage of the long-standing experiences of my father and his team. As pioneers in this field, the IVF Centers Prof. Zech provided IVF treatment as early as 1984 at their Bregenz-based center. These issues have always preoccupied my father who can look back on years of scientific research in the US and, since 1980, on his time as senior physician at the University Hospital.

 

How many clinics do you operate? Where is the clinic group headquartered?

 

The headquarters are in Bregenz. The different sites may be chosen depending on the medical indication and the respective national legislation. The development of new techniques is mainly done in Bregenz (R&D).

See publication list: http://www.ivf.at/de-de/qualität/wissenschaft.aspx 

 

How many women do you treat at all your centers in one year's time?

 

 > 5.000.

 

The transfer of a previously collected and cryopreserved egg would only be possible if the woman could not (or no longer) conceive naturally. Let us assume a 25 year old woman would have her oocytes frozen. Would it be possible for her to have these oocytes fertilized and transferred to her womb at about the age of 48? It is highly unlikely that she will still be fertile then, isn’t it?

 

Is there – as would be the case for fertilized eggs – a maximum storage time for unfertilized eggs? How long can they be stored?

The age threshold past which women generally will no longer be able to conceive naturally is about 45 years. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve pregnancy resulting in the birth of a healthy child by means of the woman’s own eggs (i.e. eggs other than those frozen and stored for the sake of precaution) from age 38 onwards. That is exactly where Ovita comes in. Ovita collects a woman's healthy oocytes while she is still young and places them in storage thus helping to stop the natural aging process of the cells. They can be thawed and fertilized with the partner’s semen at any desired point in time. We adhere to our self-imposed internal Code of Conduct and respect an age limit of about 45 years. However, if a woman still had regular periods at the age of 46, she would be able to become pregnant naturally. Difficulties in achieving pregnancy must therefore be regarded as involuntary childlessness, which in turn requires the fertilization of the cryopreserved oocytes. In Switzerland the oocytes can be stored up to 5 years under the current law and can only be fertilized on account of medical indications. We do not offer therapy after the menopause.

News & interesting facts

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/oct/18/eggs-frozen-young-women
Scientific presentation by the team of Ovita:   Live Birth Rate After Aseptic Vitrification of MII Oocytes In Closed Carrier Devices   2nd World Congress on Fertility Preservation Miami Be...
by Nancy Hass PREV Alexander the Great NEXT A Dangerous Mind: Francis Alÿs at MoMA The wallet-size case, cleverly designed by the drug company to fit the hypodermic needles and the tiny vials of ...

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Information Events

 
Exciting information events on the issue of social egg freezing using special freezing methods (= freezing, cryopreservation) in order to preserve a woman's fertility.

Univ. Prof. Dr. Herbert Zech
Specialist in gynecology and obstetrics

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