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Egg Freezing Gives Women Reproductive Freedom

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a blog by Avner Hershlag, M.D., North Shore–LIJ, The Center for Human Reproduction, , March 22, 2011

Recent breakthroughs in reproductive technology are good news, very good news, for women in the reproductive age group: A new version of the biologic clock, ticking in the back of the mind of practically every young woman, has finally arrived. For the first time, this new model has a “pause” button.

Egg freezing allows you to freeze your eggs while they still have a great potential to result in a live born child. For decades, men have been able to freeze their sperm and use it to have children at a later date, even if they had to go through cancer treatment that rendered them infertile.

Likewise, embryos, the result of eggs fertilized by sperm, have been successfully frozen and thawed for several decades.

The egg, on the other hand, has stubbornly resisted freezing. With its high water content, ice crystals forming during the cooling process have killed the DNA of the cells. Only a few eggs, worldwide, have survived the “ice storm.”

But reproductive biologists didn’t give up. And now it seems like we’ve finally conquered the egg-freezing frontier: New, refined, freezing techniques allow eggs to be suspended in liquid nitrogen (temperature almost 200 below zero centigrade) and remain intact and viable once they are brought back to room temperature.

With new techniques of egg freezing, most eggs survive, and most of the surviving eggs become embryos after sperm is injected into them, and pregnancy rates are high!

So why is this such big news for women?

Egg freezing represents the most important milestone for women in their quest to gain reproductive independence:

  • Freeze now – conceive later. If you are worried that your egg reservoir will “dry out,” freeze your eggs early, regardless of when you plan to get pregnant.
  • Don’t procrastinate! The earlier you freeze your eggs, the better; the more viable they will be when you finally get to use them with fewer genetic (chromosomal) abnormalities.
  • How old should you be? Preferably before or around 30 years of age is my recommendation.
  • Freezing your eggs is like taking reproductive insurance. A year after you freeze your eggs, or maybe sooner, you may meet the love of your life, and soon after – get married and have children with him. Naturally!
  • But what if not? What if you are 30 years old, your eggs are fertile, but you don’t end up meeting the man you want to father your children until you are ... 40! Before you tie the knot with the man you’ve chosen to share the rest of your life, you can tell him you have 30-year-old eggs frozen! You’d be a 40-year-old woman with the potential of a 30-year-old to conceive. A priceless reproductive dowry!
  • Egg freezing frees you up to find Mr. Right rather than Mr. Available. What a difference an era makes! Don’t settle for less! Remember, you have the new model of the biologic clock. And you have left it in a “pause” mode. No need to make hasty decisions and choose the wrong guy for the wrong reasons.

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