Is Egg Freezing An Effective Way To Delay Motherhood?

A Forbes Magazine article calls into question whether egg freezing, which is being done in increasing numbers, lacks scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Egg freezing isn’t new. In fact, the first baby conceived with an egg that had been frozen and then thawed was born 30 years ago.

But it was only a little more than four years ago, in October 2012, that the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and its affiliate, the Society for Advanced Reproductive Technology (SART), which represents virtually all U.S. clinics that perform IVF, published an updated guideline that concluded egg freezing no longer was an experimental procedure.

“The success of oocyte cryopreservation has improved dramatically over the past decade, and preliminary data for safety are reassuring,” the ASRM and SART practice committees wrote, boosting interest in egg freezing.

According to the ASRM/SART guideline, candidates for oocyte cryopreservation include:

Young women or adolescent girls undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, placing them at high risk for infertility.
Women with genetic mutations that place them at a high risk of ovarian cancer, spurring them to remove their ovaries as a preventive measure before they’ve had children.
Some couples undergoing IVF. For example, they might need to freeze eggs because the man is unable to collect a semen sample to fertilize fresh eggs that have been retrieved from the woman.

However, there is “not yet sufficient data to recommend oocyte cryopreservation for the sole purpose of circumventing reproductive aging in healthy women,” according to the ASRM/SART guideline. “Marketing this technology for the purpose of deferring childbearing may give women false hope…”

I disagree with the premise of this last statement. There is sufficient experience with egg freezing being effective, for example, in egg donors so that an increasing number of egg donation cycles are being performed with frozen eggs. If it is technically effective enough to convert a large proportion of egg donation cycles to frozen eggs and to have the ASRM recommend it as a fertility preserving technique for young women with cancer, why would you not assume that it would be effective as a fertility preservation option in the remainder of the population?

It’s going to take a decade to “prove” that freezing eggs is a more effective way to conceive than attempting conception in the 40’s. In the meantime I encourage young women who are planning to delay childbearing until their late 30’s and certainly 40’s to consider egg freezing. Then if they cannot conceive at a later date, their frozen eggs will be like money in the bank.

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