In new guidelines published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) said that there is Ã¢â‚¬Å“good evidenceÃ¢â‚¬Â that pregnancy rates in younger women following fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization are similar whether the eggs used were fresh or previously frozen.
As a result, the ASRM says that egg freezing for women who face infertility should no longer be considered experimental. The group analyzed almost 1,000 published studies in its first review of egg freezing since 2008.
So how does putting an egg on ice work? A woman injects herself with hormones every day for two weeks to trigger her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. During that time, she will visit her doctor every three days for blood work and ultrasounds. Her doctor will perform retrieval surgery under general anesthesia, where the doc removes the eggs by inserting a microthin needle into each ovary through the vaginal wall. Then the eggs are flash-frozen using a technology called vitrification that seals an egg in ice in seconds. The eggs are stored in a nitrogen tank, and later they can be thawed, fertilized, and implanted with IVF.
But before you run out and freeze your eggs, know this: the ASRM removed the Ã¢â‚¬Å“experimentalÃ¢â‚¬Â tag ONLY for women facing infertility. This includes women about to undergo chemotherapy and women who suffer from severe endometriosis and other medical conditions that could affect their ability to have children.
The ASRM stopped short of recommending the procedure for otherwise fertile women, however. The reason: there is not enough evidence on the safety, effectiveness, and emotional risks of egg freezing to endorse it as an elective procedure. The ASRM expressed concern about clinics marketing the treatment as a way to Ã¢â‚¬Å“pauseÃ¢â‚¬Â your biological clock, which could encourage women to delay having children, and ultimately give them false hope about their ability to have kids down the line. And even though freezing eggs is no longer considered experimental for women facing infertility, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a 100% guarantee of conception.
That said, there are some women for whom freezing their eggs might be an attractive option, even if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not immediately facing infertility. Pregnancy rates from frozen eggs are best in women under age 38, so once a woman hits 35 (the point at which her egg quality and quantity takes a nosedive), it might be worth shelling out the extra money to prolong her options for a bit longer, even though the ASRM still considers this elective egg-freezing Ã¢â‚¬Å“experimental.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“As a woman reaches her mid-thirties, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s looking at the specter of declining egg quality within a few years,Ã¢â‚¬Â says John Jain, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and founder of Santa Monica Fertility. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s single at that point, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unlikely to find the right guy and get married and build a family in the next year. It takes time. So I think at the age of 35, women might want to consider this option.Ã¢â‚¬Â But under 35? Best to save your money, he says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are many years of good fertility left, so why go through with such an expensive process [that you might not ever use]?Ã¢â‚¬Â
photo: Huntstock/Thinkstock More from WH:
Your Eggs: Buy, Sell, or Freeze?
Does IVF Cause Birth Defects?
Advice for Getting Pregnant
Fuel your workout with The New Abs Diet Cookbook!