More Women Are Freezing Their Eggs. Should They?

In 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine decided egg freezing was no longer an experimental procedure. That opened the door for clinics to market it to women who don’t have a medical reason to do it but are simply worried about their declining fertility — what’s being dubbed as “social” egg freezing.

John Robertson, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Texas Law School wrote a paper published in 2014 in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences on how women freezing their eggs can be both empowered and alienated by the procedure.

“The problem is it may be marketed to women who are in the older age group who may have very little chance of obtaining viable eggs,” Robertson says. “So it’s extremely important that there be full disclosure at every step of the process.”

Dr. Kevin Doody agrees. He codirects the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Dallas, and is president-elect of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, or SART.

“I do not think that this should be highly promoted for the older-age woman,” Doody says. “I’m not saying one should refuse or deny services if a 40- or 42-year-old woman wanted to have her eggs frozen. But I think it would warrant a substantial counseling session with that patient.”

SART collects data on egg freezing in the U.S. And Doody says in 2013, about 4,000 women froze their eggs, up from about 2,500 the year before. And he predicts the number this year will be much higher.

But so far very few women who’ve frozen their eggs since the experimental label was lifted in 2012 have gone back to try to use them. SART found that of the 353 egg-thaw cycles in 2012, only 83 resulted in live births. In 2013, there were 414 thaw cycles and 99 live births. “Live birth” is not babies born — it means delivery of one or more infants, so it can include twins.

The secret to a good chance of success is to freeze early, such in the early 30’s, rather than as a desperate attempt in the 40’s when one’s fertility is already well on the decline in most women. Another wayu to look at it is that freezing at a specific age will result in a better chance tham just waiting as the chance of a successful birth eventually reaches zero.

If you are even thinking about the possibility of egg freezing I recommend checking your fertility potential which is simple and non-invasive.

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