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The ‘Sobering’ Study That Demonstrates the Challenges of Egg Freezing

HealthThe 'Sobering' Study That Demonstrates the Challenges of Egg Freezing

Claire Evans opted to freeze her eggs at the age of 36, six years ago. She had just split up with her fiancé and was concerned that time was running out for her to have a child. A close friend, whose own marriage had just dissolved, recommended the operation.

She received drugs to stimulate her ovaries to overproduce eggs, which were then frozen in order to have a child at an age when it would have been impossible to conceive naturally.

Egg-freezing is becoming an increasingly popular, though costly, alternative for women who want to postpone motherhood. New study reveals, however, that the age of a woman when she freezes her eggs and the number of eggs she freezes have a substantial impact on whether she will conceive. The research indicated that the majority of women who attempted to conceive were unsuccessful, typically because they waited too long to freeze their eggs or did not freeze enough.

This cautionary statement is based on data published this summer in the journal Fertility and Sterility by the clinic where Ms. Evans stored her eggs, the New York University Langone Fertility Center.

According to her, the statistics are “sobering” and “should give women pause.” Dr. Cedars, who is also the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (A.S.R.M), said that many women who freeze their eggs are “overly hopeful” about their prospects of conceiving a child. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an insurance policy.

Dr. Sarah Druckenmiller Cascante, a fellow at New York University Langone, and Dr. James Grifo, head of the fertility clinic, found that the average age at which women froze their eggs was 38.3. They waited an average of four years to thaw and fertilise their eggs.

The total probability of a live delivery from frozen eggs was 39%. However, among women younger than 38 years old when they froze their eggs, the live birthrate was 51%. It increased to 70 percent for women under 38 who thawed at least 20 eggs.

The only factors that mattered were the woman’s age when she froze her eggs and the number of eggs she froze.

“The fact is that most eggs do not produce viable embryos,” Dr. Grifo said. “The greater the number of eggs, the higher the possibility.”

According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the number of healthy women who froze their eggs increased from 7192 in 2016 to 12,438 in 2020. Dr. Timothy Hickman, president of the organisation and medical director of CCRM Fertility in Houston, said that national statistics on success rates are almost nonexistent.

Dr. Hickman praised the NYU team for conducting the research, stating, “I applaud them for their efforts.”

Dr. Alan Penzias, a fertility expert at Boston IVF Fertility Clinic and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Clinic and head of the practise committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said that data from his centre are similar with the findings of the New York University research. At his facility, he added, women who froze their eggs had just a one-third probability of conceiving after thawing them.

“Counseling should make it obvious that there is no certainty and that the cost of postponing having a child must outweigh its benefit,” Dr. Penzias said.

Dr. Penzias said that Rebecca, his 29-year-old daughter, is concerned about this trade-off. Ms. Penzias, who granted him permission to describe her position and use her name, want to freeze her eggs since she is pursuing a Ph.D. and is not yet ready to have a child. Having frozen eggs would provide her with peace of mind.

Dr. Penzias informed her that she does not need to store her eggs since she has many fertile years ahead of her, but he deems her motivation adequate.

His wife, a bioethicist and Ms. Penzias’ stepmother, disagrees and suggests that she complete her degree before attempting to conceive without frozen eggs.

Ms. Penzias planned to freeze her eggs in October after deciding to do so.

Before deciding to freeze their eggs, ladies must also be prepared to incur significant expenses. Each egg retrieval cycle might cost up to $10,000, according to Dr. Hickman. The quantity of eggs gathered varies from woman to woman, and for many, the only way to collect enough eggs to increase the likelihood of success is to undergo many cycles.

To thaw and fertilise the eggs, develop embryos in the lab for a few days, then transfer them to the woman’s uterus costs an additional $5,000 to $7,000. Ms. Evans is among the many women who screen embryos for chromosomal abnormalities. This costs an additional $3,000 In addition, egg storage might cost up to $1,000 per year.

Some health insurance plans cover at least a portion of the expenses. But many do not.

After paying for egg harvesting and storage, the majority of women never utilise their frozen eggs, often because they became pregnant on their own.

However, Ms. Evans is a success story. She was young enough at the time she froze eggs to have a fair probability of success and to have 20 eggs collected twice in order to freeze them.

She married the same guy she had been engaged to in 2019. She had her eggs frozen and fertilised with her husband’s sperm in a laboratory last year. Seven months ago, she gave birth to her daughter, Fiona.

However, the frozen eggs did not work for the friend of Ms. Evans who suggested she undertake the operation. In 2020, she thawed and fertilised the approximately ten eggs she had frozen.

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