Egg Freezing Is Not a Guarantee of Future Pregnancy
Originally Written April 30, 2014 – Updated September 21, 2020 – Experts Down The Hall – Ronald Feinberg
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek – April 17, 2014
Women are increasingly choosing egg freezing to help relieve the pressure of finding a partner and having a child while also following a career path. A woman’s egg quality and quantity begins to decline at age 30, and significantly decreases after age 35. For many women who have career-oriented goals but also want to have children, egg freezing can potentially help pause their biological clock until they are ready to have children.
Young patients have a high likelihood of survival after cancer treatment, and are more likely to still be in their childbearing years once in remission.
Egg freezing has been around for nearly three decades, but was considered experimental by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) until recently. ASRM notes physicians should counsel their female patients against using egg freezing as a way to postpone having children, rather than attempting to have children naturally.
From Our Expert, Dr. Ronald Feinberg
“Predicting a woman’s future fertility potential is difficult.”
As noted in the article, many women are concerned about their future fertility potential, but we unfortunately don’t have good methods for predicting any particular woman’s future fertility potential. Is a woman better off electively freezing eggs at age 35 as opposed to attempting pregnancy at age 38, or even utilizing IVF? That is hard to know, and no studies have really addressed this.
The article also states egg freezing can be done, but doesn’t discuss pregnancy rates at the time of thaw. Currently, no central registry like the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology’s IVF success rate database exists to evaluate individual clinics’ freeze and thaw success. In addition, very few clinics have a track record to close the loop that is statistically meaningful. Patients should know any IVF clinic can claim to freeze eggs, but they may encounter a “buyer beware” situation if/when those eggs are thawed and used to attempt pregnancy.
The egg freezing process at RADfertility is identical to what women undergo for IVF at our centers. Initially, the ovaries are stimulated with medications to allow multiple eggs to develop within the same treatment cycle. Then, the eggs are retrieved in a 10-minute to 15-minute office procedure performed under anesthesia. Once the eggs are retrieved, our laboratory embryologists identify the fully developed eggs, and those eggs are vitrified. Our techniques for vitrification have generally demonstrated an average of 80% to 90% survival at thaw.
Overall, egg freezing should not be considered a guarantee for achieving a future pregnancy. However, for women recently diagnosed with cancer, or another serious illness affecting future fertility potential, egg preservation does provide tremendous hope. Cancer therapies such as radiation or chemotherapy can destroy ovarian cells and eggs.
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