The big news is that up until October 2012, Egg Freezing was considered experimental by Those in the Know. Those in the Know being the ASRM – the American Society for Reproductive Medicine – a group of reproductive endocrinologists and other related professionals/experts in reproductive medicine.
Why would egg freezing be considered experimental when the first baby from a frozen egg was born in the 1980’s?
The truth is, that despite the fact that reproductive scientists can essentially make a baby for anyone (as long as you are not too picky – like about where the sperm and eggs come from), we have been really, really bad at freezing eggs until very recently.
Actually, that is not the whole truth. We have been really bad at making babies from a previously frozen egg. Anyone can freeze an egg, the trick is thawing it, getting it to fertilize, make an embryo, and eventually, an actual healthy, live baby.
That has changed and the technology has advanced to the point that the chance of having a successful pregnancy using a frozen egg is reasonable.
How reasonable? It depends. This is an IVF (in vitro fertilization) based technology. There are 300+ IVF programs in this country and the experience with freezing and thawing eggs is quite variable. The best centers have experience and real numbers to report. Numbers that are starting to approach pregnancy rates with fresh eggs.
So back to the original question – should you freeze your eggs? The answer is – “It depends”
ASRM considers egg freezing for fertility preservation for cancer patients and other patients with severe medical illnesses that threaten their fertility to be non-experimental. The risks to your eggs from chemotherapy and radiation is often quite high, so the benefit of freezing your eggs before being exposed to these treatments clearly outweighs the small risks of egg freezing and the risk that the egg freezing will not result in a pregnancy.
On the other hand, the risk benefit ratio for freezing your eggs because you have not found Mr Right is less clear and the ASRM felt that egg freezing for this reason should still be considered somewhat experimental. Lots of questions remain like – What if I freeze my eggs today and find Mr Right tomorrow and we start trying right away? Then I may never use my frozen eggs. Is it worthwhile freezing my eggs for 6 months or do they need to stay frozen for years in order to make it worthwhile? Although many women become infertile as they get older, many women do not. How do I know if I will need the frozen eggs? What if I use them and I do not become pregnant? How many eggs should I freeze? Can you tell if my eggs are healthy now and should I freeze now or do I have time to think about it? How much time?
A lot of these are crystal ball questions. So if you don’t have a crystal ball, how can you figure out whether or not to freeze your eggs? The answer will differ for each person. First, talk with a qualified reproductive endocrinologist. Someone who has experience freezing and thawing eggs. She or he will not have all the answers but they can give you the information you need to help you come to a decision that makes sense for you. Freezing your eggs is about risk management. There are no guarantees, but you may be able to improve your odds of having a baby using your own eggs later if you freeze them now.