Health Scan: Freezing eggs for Jerusalem women

Dr. Hananel Holtzer, head of the fertility and IVF unit at the hospital, said that ova are frozen for medical, personal and social reasons.

A baby playing (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A baby playing (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
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.
A New York study shows evidence linking personal care products used during pregnancy to adverse reproductive effects in newborns.
The study found a link between women with higher levels of butyl paraben, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, and the following birth outcomes: shorter gestational age at birth, decreased birth weight and increased odds of preterm birth, said Associate Prof. Dr. Laura Geer of the School of Public Health at State University of New York.
The antimicrobial compound, triclocarban, mainly added to soaps, was associated with shorter gestational age at birth. Another common chemical added to lotions and creams, propyl paraben, was associated with decreased body length at birth. The long-term consequences of this are not clear. Geer added, “Findings must be reproduced in larger studies.”
The study was a collaboration with SUNY Downstate’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, directed by professor Rolf Halden, PhD, a noted expert in the study of antimicrobial chemicals. The findings are available online and were recently published in a special issue of the Journal of Hazardous Materials.
“Our latest study adds to the growing body of evidence showing that endocrine-disrupting compounds can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and in humans. Effects observed in previous studies mainly came from animal models only,” Geer said.
This study presents evidence of potentially adverse impacts in humans. Larger follow-up studies to confirm these findings are warranted. Geer suggested that “based on this new evidence, the safety of use of these chemicals in our consumer products should be reassessed.”
Regulations requiring removal of triclosan from various consumer care products have been in place since 2015 in the European Union, but broader regulatory action by the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Environmental Protection Agency has not ensued. Various American manufacturers have pledged to voluntarily remove triclosan from hygiene-related products, while the state of Minnesota has passed a ban on use of triclosan in sanitizing or hand and body cleaning products beginning in 2017.
A new children’s book to make hospital stays less frightening has been published in Hebrew. Titled Sfat Hatarim Shel Beit Haholim (The Secret Language of Hospitals), the beautifully illustrated book, authored by Liat Shaish-Markowitz and published by Ofir Bikurim, can be read to younger children, or read by patients aged about seven and up by themselves.
A page of advice to parents suggests that children who will be hospitalized be taken on a tour of the medical center and department so they will know where they are. Showing them the nurses’ station, where meals will be served and where the game room is located is very important.
“Give them the feeling that you have confidence in the medical staff and the treatment they will receive.
Give them space for their feelings and fears. Don’t say ‘it’s nothing’ but rather ‘I understand it is not pleasant and hurts. But the doctors are treating you, and we are here with you.’” The protagonist is a boy around 12 who suddenly develops mysterious stomach pains. When his family doctor is unable to find the cause, he is hospitalized.
The nurses and doctors he encounters in the pediatrics department are kind and empathetic. X-rays and taking blood samples are explained. A psychologist comes to visit, sitting on the edge of his bed, to relieve his fears.
Medical clowns perform. Finally, he gets treatment and is discharged feeling much better.
The glossy pages include white space for adding doctors’ stamps, stickers, medical terms and a place to draw his condition or write a personal story. Undoubtedly, reading the thin volume will relieve the fears of young patients