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