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Egg Freezing: Maria Menounos Brings Attention to Preserving Fertility

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Maria Menounous, co-host of Extra, has recently gone public about a decision that fertility doctors say is the next wave in reproductive endocrinology: egg freezing to preserve fertility for delayed childbearing.

The 33-year-old celebrity announced her decision on Dr. Drew's Lifechangers and also discussed her decision on Monday's Good Morning America, saying "To me, parenting is the most difficult job in the entire world, and when I do it, I want to be committed, and I want to be 100 percent ready to take it on and be the best mom I can be. Right now, I don’t find myself in that position.”

Because the egg freezing techniques have improved significantly over the last few years, there are currently 1,000 to 2,000 babies that have been born from frozen eggs, according to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Avery Lee Kennedy of Lexington, Kentucky, the world's first frozen egg bank baby, has just started kindergarten, according to a recent press release.

Egg Freezing for Delayed Childbearing?

A woman in her late 20s to late 30s who does not have a partner, but wants to preserve her fertility in order to have a biological child, is a candidate for considering egg freezing. A woman might also consider egg freezing if she needs to delay childbearing for career, medical or other reasons.

A woman's fertility declines significantly after age 35, with about one third of women over 35 having fertility problems. At age 30 a woman's chance of getting pregnant naturally is approximately 20 percent; at age 40 it drops to approximately 5 percent.

Why does your fertility decline? It's because the quality and quantity of your eggs — your ovarian reserve — is declining. This is why fertility doctors say if you are considering egg freezing, it is better to come in earlier rather than later.

"The best candidates are women in their late 20s and early 30s, because they are the ones who are going to experience the highest success rates for the procedure," says Daniel B. Shapiro, MD, a fertility doctor with Reproductive Biology Associates (RBA) in Atlanta. "As it is now, the average age of women who are asking for the technique are 37 to 38 years of age, and though it can be successful in women of that age, the chance of success in the future is a lot lower.

An Insurance Policy?

Menounos told Good Morning America: “It’s a bit of an insurance policy. It doesn’t mean that in two years or three years I’m not going to try naturally, but at least I have this in case there’s a problem.”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) does warn that “oocyte cryopreservation … remains an experimental procedure that should not be offered or marketed as a means to defer reproductive aging.” ASRM recommends that women exploring egg freezing should set up consultations at a fertility clinic and ask about treatment options, oocyte freezing methods, success rates and policies about disposing unused eggs.

Dr. Shapiro says that anyone who considers egg freezing should have a complete understanding that egg freezing is an "imperfect insurance policy that hopefully you will never have to use. And even if you do have to use it in the future, there’s a reasonable expectation that it will work, but there’s also a reasonable expectation that it won’t," he says.

Still, egg freezing for fertility preservation is a viable option for women today. And it's one that will be receiving more media attention as celebrities and other high profile women choose it as an option.

“For me, this is important," Menounos told Good Morning America, "because now we can show women there is an option if you need it and if you want it and if you think it’s right for you."

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