frozen-embryo-transfer-as-fertility-treatmentBy: Brigitte Adams. Today’s world is very different from our mother’s.  Marriage rates are declining and divorces are rising.  More women are entering the workforce and are every bit as career-driven as men.  As a result, average child-rearing ages globally are dramatically rising.  However, our biological clocks have not slowed to accommodate these new societal and cultural changes.  Egg freezing technology provides women with new options – and the opportunity to take a proactive role in extending their reproductive futures for the right time to build a family.

Given the recent global media attention, you might think that egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, is a brand new technology.  In fact, the first recorded birth from a frozen egg was over twenty-five years ago. 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), a breakthrough pioneered by Italian and Japanese scientists, that clinics started to have repeated success.

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Leading global fertility clinics have adopted egg vitrification as their de facto egg freezing method.  Post thaw survival rates for egg vitrification are in the 90+% range and fertilization rates range from 32% to 65% per embryo transferred (based on the age of eggs when frozen).  Egg freezing follows the same fertility protocol, including hormone stimulation, as in vitro fertilization (IVF) – up to the point of egg retrieval.  IVF patients proceed directly to the egg fertilization process, while egg freezing patients freeze and bank their eggs for future use.

Worldwide approximately 1,500 births have been reported since the first in 1986.  While this number is not large, promising new data reveals that frozen and thawed oocytes are as effective as fresh eggs commonly used in IVF.  In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lifted its “experimental” label for egg freezing only seven months ago.  However, egg freezing is not embraced everywhere with some countries like Singapore banning freezing one’s eggs for non-medical reasons.

Although most clinics do not have a uniform cut off age for egg freezing, it is recommended that women freeze their eggs prior to age 39.  Dr. Jamie Grifo of NYU Fertility explains: “…it very much depends upon the individual. If the parameters are good, a 39 year old, based on IVF data, has a 31% chance of pregnancy. Also, I have found that there is a therapeutic value in egg freezing. Egg freezing offers women the possibility of future pregnancy – which can be empowering.”

Although there are many advantages to egg freezing, there are still negative aspects that need to be considered.  One of the primary factors is the prohibitive cost that can range from $12,000-$18,000.  Also, as with any nascent technology, statistics are scarce and uniformed. Furthermore, egg freezing is not a silver bullet and freezing one’s eggs does not guarantee having a baby later in life.

While not a fertility panacea, egg freezing is a decisive reproductive advancement for the modern woman.

This new fertility frontier enables women to take action now for the possibility of building a family in the future. Given the opportunity, wouldn’t you rather be proactive and invest in your fertility future now than later bemoan the fact that your prime fertility years passed you by?

Brigitte Adams is the Founder/CEO of Eggsurance, the first independent, non-clinic related education and community website devoted to everything egg freezing. 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, The Huffington Post, Jezebel and The Fertility Forum.

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