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Egg Freezing as Standard of Care

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a guest blog by Jane Frederick, M.D., HRC Fertility, July 13, 2013

Egg freezing has finally been lifted as an experimental procedure by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and can now be offered as standard of care to patients who desire it. While early research with slow freezing showed limited success, recent improvements and mastery of vitrification have led to the adoption of the technique by most IVF centers. Vitrification is a method of rapid flash freezing to preserve eggs. With the endorsement of the ASRM, more women can access this unique method of preserving their fertility. More than 1500 babies have been born from vitrified eggs worldwide, with no increase in congenital defects.

Women undergoing treatment for cancer or another condition, during which pregnancy is contraindicated, may opt for fertility preservation by freezing eggs for future use. Egg banking could also provide an “insurance policy” for younger women who delay childbearing and fear they may run out of healthy, fertile eggs before they are ready to have a baby. The capacity to freeze eggs can also be beneficial in those rare cases when the male partner is unable to produce a specimen in the time needed after egg retrieval. It may also be of value for women with a family history of early menopause or for those who object to embryo freezing on religious grounds.

The optimal age for egg freezing is a woman, under age 40, with evidence of good ovarian reserve. This may include an adequate number of antral follicles on ultrasound, with a basal level of FSH below 10mIU/ml, and Anti Mullerian Hormone level (AMH) above 2.0ng/dl. Eggs can safely be frozen and stored for as many years as embryo storage using our vitrification methods (over 10 years). The $5000 cost covers the IVF cycle, medications, and freezing for one year. An annual storage fee of $700 is billed each year the eggs are frozen, and I encourage patients to stay in touch with my clinic, so their tissue is not considered abandoned. In my hands, egg freezing has given single women more control over their biological clocks, and an option to return when they are over 40, to have a child with their own genetic link. This is the most exciting aspect of fertility preservation.