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ASRM: Egg Freezing No Longer Experimental

October 20, 2012

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has announced that egg freezing is now a first line fertility treatment, as its former experimental treatment title has been lifted. Recent findings show that frozen eggs are yielding successful pregnancies and healthy babies comparable to in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles using fresh eggs.

Chair of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) Practice Committee, Eric Widra, MD declares: “Oocyte cryopreservation is an exciting and improving technology, and should no longer be considered experimental. Pregnancy rates and health outcomes of the resulting children are now comparable to those of IVF with fresh eggs”.

Jamie Grifo, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City, says of the news: "Similar success has been found between frozen and fresh cycles and when you have enough deliveries [from frozen egg cycles], it is hard to call it experimental".

Grifo and his research team piloted a 3-year egg freezing study at their NYU mouse lab. With the birth of healthy mice via frozen egg IVF, they then conducted a free trial in humans completing 23 frozen egg cycles. The team observed a 57% delivery rate, which is equivalent to the study participants' age group cohorts receiving IVF with fresh eggs.

This brings good news to those seeking egg freezing as a means of fertility preservation due to impending cancer treatment or other conditions which compromise fertility. Many fertility doctors have shown opposition to the experimental title in the past. The updated classification means countless women and couples will pursue egg freezing for fertility preservation with fewer reservations.

"Patients and physicians will be more inclined to pursue any option after lifting the experimental label. Insurance companies may also be likely to cover the cost [of egg freezing for fertility preservation]", claims David Diaz, M.D., medical director of West Coast Fertility Centers in California.

The new report entitled “Mature Oocyte Cyryopreservation” was released after much deliberation of the 2008 release and nearly 1,000 previously published papers on egg freezing. The committee found sufficient evidence to “demonstrate acceptable success rates in young highly selected populations.”

ASRM advises women seeking egg freezing to proceed with caution. A woman’s age at the time of egg freezing is an important consideration and directly impacts the success rates of future IVF cycles using frozen eggs. The overall clinical experience has been that success rates with frozen eggs decline with maternal age as do success rates with fresh eggs.

Diaz adds, "The experience of each clinic with egg freezing varies greatly. Patients should ask the number of healthy babies born, the duration of experience at their clinic, and have a basic screening done to see if they are a good candidate".

Both Grifo and Diaz agree that patients need to be informed of the benefits and risks, and are smart enough to make a choice based on their own research. "We do empower women with data and information to make good decisions. Most women understand this might not work and at least they did something. If this helps women figure out how they want to conduct their reproductive lives, that's a good thing", states Grifo.

Egg freezing for elective, non-medical reasons is not yet recognized by the Committee for widespread use.

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