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If You're Going to Freeze Your Eggs, Don't Wait Too Late

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Elective egg freezing is a technology that has come a long way and holds great future promise for women who want to preserve their fertility and/or need to delay childbearing for social or medical reasons. However, technology hasn't been able to make older eggs young again ... yet. And women who wait too long to explore egg freezing as an option for fertility preservation have less success at achieving a pregnancy.

Eggs Frozen when a Woman Is Older Less Likely to Result in Pregnancy

Research presented at the annual meeting for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2011) highlighted the problem of women waiting too long before deciding to freeze their eggs. A team from Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York (RMA) found that most women interested in freezing their eggs waited until they were in their mid-to-late thirties (37 to 39), a time when they are already experiencing the natural decline of their fertility. The scientists analyzed raw data from 26 studies conducted between 1986 and 2010 that reported on IVF/ICSI pregnancies from mature frozen eggs. The analysis included 1,990 cycles using eggs frozen with a slow-freezing protocol and 291 cycles using vitrified eggs.

The researchers found that women were more likely to conceive if their eggs were frozen when they were under 30. For slow-frozen eggs, the likelihood of the embryo created implanting declined from 10.4 percent in women under 30 to 4.7 percent in women over 40. For women whose eggs were vitrified, the implantation rate ranged from 18.8 percent in women under 30 to 10.3 percent in women over 40.

“ASRM considers elective egg freezing an experimental procedure with insufficient data on usage and outcomes to assure patients that it’s a worthwhile undertaking," says Roger Lobo, M.D., president of ASRM. "Despite increasing numbers of clinics offering the procedure and the significant media attention paid it in the last several years, women are not pursuing elective egg freezing at an age when it would be most likely help them accomplish their fertility goals. It is apparent that patients need more education about their fertility at younger ages and we need more outcomes research to help us better advise them of their best options.” (Ed. note: ASRM no longer considers egg freezing "experimental")

Will Scientists Be Able to Improve Older Eggs for IVF?

OvaScience, a fertility company working to improve the quality of eggs and increase the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF), presented scientific findings on their patented technology to improve the quality of a woman's eggs.

As an egg ages, the number and function of mitochondria the primary source of cellular energy from within eggs and a key determinant of egg quality — decreases. The OvaScience approach "rejuvenates" eggs by injecting fresh mitochondria from a woman's own egg stem cells into her egg during IVF. The company's proprietary technology is exclusively licensed from Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

"OvaScience's patented technology enhances the quality of a woman's eggs in order to improve the success of IVF," said Michelle Dipp, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of OvaScience. "We look forward to offering women new options to address infertility and to launching our pivotal clinical study next year at leading IVF centers."

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