x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

First birth from frozen eggs, and three more on the way

An Emirati woman gives birth to a baby conceived using a frozen egg, the first birth of its kind in the Gulf region, and three others become pregnant using the same technique.

DUBAI // An Emirati woman recently gave birth to a baby conceived using a frozen egg, the first birth of its kind in the Gulf region, and three other women have become pregnant using the same technique. The 40-year-old woman gave birth to a baby boy three months ago after undergoing treatments at the Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre.

"This is a huge development for us," said Dr Samir Radi, the centre's senior embryologist. "Not only this lady, three other women who used this technique got pregnant and will be delivering their babies in the next few months." Doctors at the centre said the baby weighed 3.3kg at birth and was healthy. The delivery represented a major boost to the difficult process of conception by frozen eggs. The technique had only a two per cent success rate until recently, Dr Radi said, which meant doctors were reluctant to use it.

Eggs have not responded well to freezing, which resulted in the low success rate. However, a new technique used at the Dubai centre, called vitrification, has improved results by using a slow freezing process. "After implementing [vitrification] we have seen the success with the frozen egg technique," Dr Radi said. "This method for freezing eggs ensures the egg and its surrounded area is protected."

An alternative method uses frozen embryos, in which the egg is fertilised and then frozen. According to the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, there have been only 900 babies born using frozen eggs worldwide. It said there were around 6,000 frozen eggs in the UK, of which 150 have been turned into embryos. The process of freezing eggs is relatively new; it was first allowed in Britain in 2000.

munderwood@thenational.ae