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Brigitte Adams

By Brigitte Adams, Founder of Eggsurance.com, and Angel LaLiberte, AChildAfter40.com.

Welcome to the first of a 2-Part article on oocyte cryopreservation: the freezing of women’s unfertilized eggs for conception at a later date. According to many experts, we are poised for enormous and unprecedented change in terms of how much leverage women will have over their biological clocks.

Click here, for a 1-minute video on the implications of egg freezing, and an opportunity to voice your opinion.

Egg freezing is expected to revolutionize women’s control over their own fertility, offering them the choice to conceive in their 40’s, or later, with eggs harvested at a younger age. The potential impact has been compared to the advent of “the pill” nearly 50 years ago, when mass availability of contraception liberated future generations of women from unplanned pregnancies and careers relegated to the kitchen.

The Facts of Fertility After 40

Today, roughly 20% of women in the U.S. wait until after they turn 35 to give birth to their first child.[1] However, our biological clocks are still set at our mother’s generation.  Fertility declines to less than 5% after the age of 40, and 2% in any given month, after the age of 42.

Obviously, our eggs did not get the message that today’s women are delaying pregnancy until they are older and ready to become a mother. Therefore, the effort to get pregnant after 40 is always fraught with the risk of age-related infertility, leading to disappointment for countless women, or to other options, such as egg donation.

Recent Breakthroughs in Egg Freezing

Oocyte cryopreservation, (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Oocyte_cryopreservation) is not exactly a new technology. The first child conceived from a frozen egg was born in 1986 (http://artfulquestions NULL.blogspot NULL.ca/2011/06/putting-eggs-on-ice-reply-to-jennifer NULL.html).[2] However, it was extremely hard to replicate as human eggs, the body’s largest cell, are comprised of a significant amount of water making freezing them a particularly complex task.

It was not until, 2005 with the advent of egg vitrification (or fast freezing) that clinics started to have repeated success.  Vitrification, or to make glass, quickly dehydrates eggs in a series of cryoprotectants prior to being plunged into liquid nitrogen.

Very recently, however, scientists have made real progress in perfecting vitrification, leading to very promising results. Clinics are reporting (http://www NULL.timesofmalta NULL.com/articles/view/20120914/opinion/The-case-for-oocyte-cryopreservation NULL.436878) that post thaw survival rates are in the 90+% range and fertilization rates range from 32% to 65% per embryo transferred.[3]

Benefits of Egg Freezing For Delayed Pregnancy

  • Unlike embryo freezing, egg freezing allows women to wait to choose the father once the egg is fertilized
  • Studies suggest there is no difference in health of babies born from natural pregnancies than from frozen eggs
  • The “shelf life” of frozen eggs is indefinite s long as they are frozen correctly and maintained at the correct temperature
  • Egg freezing provides women with the possibility to extend their fertility into the future, with the option to choose the right time to get pregnant.

The Challenges of Investing in Egg Freezing

  • One cycle costs approximately $15,000, and you will have to pay for storage
  • Fertilization & Implantation costs approximately $8,000
  • Medication (subcutaneous shots) are required for 12 days to stimulate egg production.
  • Statistics are weak as it is a relatively new technology and there is still no standardized way to record data .
  • Egg quality depends on a woman’s age at the time the eggs are extracted and frozen; the longer you wait, the less viable your eggs will be.

Although not a guarantee, egg freezing is becoming a sort of “insurance policy” for being able to have children after 40, long after natural fertility, and egg quality, has declined due to age.

NEXT: Part 2: Egg Freezing, with updates from the ASRM.

 

Notes for this blog:

About Brigitte Adams: Brigitte is the Founder/CEO of Eggsurance, the first independent, non-clinic related education and community website devoted to everything egg freezing. Raised in Hong Kong, Brigitte received her BA from Vassar College, MA from Middlebury College and MBA from the University of San Francisco. After freezing her own eggs in 2011 at age 39, Brigitte was frustrated by the lack of information available about egg freezing. She started Eggsurance to educate and empower women to take control of their reproductive futures. Brigitte has been called the “sane and authentic voice for egg freezing” and has been featured in several publications including TIME, Jezebel and The Fertility Forum.  http://twitter.com/eggsurance (http://twitter NULL.com/eggsurance)

http://www.facebook.com/Eggsurance (http://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/Eggsurance)


[1]WomensHealth.gov, “Infertility Fact Sheet,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, 1 July 2009. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.cfm#b (http://ctt NULL.marketwire NULL.com/?release=890041&id=1632622&type=1&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww NULL.womenshealth NULL.gov%2fpublications%2four-publications%2ffact-sheet%2finfertility NULL.cfm%23b)

[2] Chen C. (1986) “Pregnancy after human oocyte cryopreservation”. Lancet 1 (8486): 884-886.

[3] The Times of Malta, “The Case for Oocyte Cryopreservation,” 14 September 2012. http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120914/opinion/The-case-for-oocyte-cryopreservation.436878 (http://www NULL.timesofmalta NULL.com/articles/view/20120914/opinion/The-case-for-oocyte-cryopreservation NULL.436878)

6 Responses to PART 1: Can Egg Freezing Beat Your Biological Clock?

  1. Renee (http://Xtraordinaryfertility) says:

    I think as we educate the younger generations, women will start doing this I order to help plan their future generations. I hope the movement will start soon as to avoid infertility.
    Thanks for the article.
    Renee

  2. Lisa says:

    It seems like this could be very good news indeed.

  3. Carolyn (http://www NULL.mommyinthemiddle NULL.com) says:

    Wow, this raises a lot of questions. Such as, how many younger women will be able to afford it? How many $15,000 cycles will it take for success? How do you measure success? (Do you find out when you’re ready to use them?)

    In some states IVF is covered by insurance, but this has raised controversy. If egg freezing becomes routine and predictable, will insurance companies pick up the tab? (Doubtful…)

    Questions aside, I think this is a wonderful option for women and look forward to learning more.

  4. Angel LaLiberte (http://www NULL.flowerpowermom NULL.com) says:

    Carolyn,
    Cost is an excellent point, Carolyn. Reproductive Endocrinologists I’ve spoken to say they believe ART should be covered by healthcare plans.
    However, in the meantime, it is being suggested that younger women should start treating egg freezing as in investment and start saving, much like they would to buy a car, or pay their annual taxes. I can only say that I’d wish egg freezing had been around when I was younger. I never dreamed I’d be trying to conceive after 40 or that I would become an older mother.
    In addition to http://www.eggsurance.com (http://www NULL.eggsurance NULL.com), there’s another website that’s recently launched, with a directory of IVF clinics offering the procedure and info on egg freezing for delayed pregnancy. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20121017006095/en/EggFreezingCosts.com-FertilityAuthority-Launches-Egg-Freezing-Website-Referral (http://www NULL.businesswire NULL.com/news/home/20121017006095/en/EggFreezingCosts NULL.com-FertilityAuthority-Launches-Egg-Freezing-Website-Referral)

  5. Lylas says:

    Hurray! So great to hear that egg freezing is recognized as a viable option. My son was conceived in 2010 via frozen donor egg – it would have been nice to have the option of freezing my own eggs when I was young.
    When using a donor, frozen eggs are a great option – no timing of cycles with the donor and no worries that, after having endured all the meds prior to transfer, there will not be enough viable eggs to transfer.
    Freezing eggs will give women the option that many men have had when they are diagnosed with cancer and the treatment could leave them infertile. Now women in this tragic situation will be able to freeze their eggs and have children when they are ready.
    HURRAY!!

  6. Angel La Liberte (http://www NULL.flowerpowermom NULL.com) says:

    You’re absolutely right, Lylas! The egg freezing option was primarily viewed as a fertility-saving procedure for cancer patients, but inevitable that it is going to be used for women who wish to get pregnant later. My sister got Hodgkins Disease when she was only 19 years old and had aggressive drug therapies. Imagine what that could have done for her, how much hope she would have had to live for!

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