As more women delay childbearing until their 30s and 40s, a growing number are freezing their eggs in a process known as oocyte cryopreservation, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The process is most commonly used by women undergoing medical treatments that could affect fertility. However, the procedure is now being marketed as an option for healthy women who want to delay having children.
Nicole Noyes, co-director of the Oocyte Cryopreservation Program at the New York University Fertility Center, said that women lose much of their natural fertility between ages 35 and 40 and that the quality of their eggs decreases with age, which can increase their chances of miscarrying.The two- to three-week oocytpe cryopreservation process involves taking fertility medications that mature multiple eggs in the ovaries. Those eggs are then extracted, gently dehydrated and stored in liquid nitrogen. When the woman wants to become pregnant, the eggs are thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos.The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that the process is "experimental" and warns that healthy women should not use it as a way to defer reproductive aging until there is more "proven scientific information" on it.Glenn Schattman, associate professor of reproductive medicine at Cornell University's Weil Medical College and co-author of the ASRM guidelines, said that about 50% of fertility clinics offer egg freezing.
There is no national registry to track how many pregnancies derived from previously frozen eggs, but according to a 2009 study, 936 infants have been born from frozen eggs throughout the world without any increased rate of birth defects.According to Noyes, the freezing process costs about $9,500 with some private clinics charging an addition $1,000 to $3,000. The thaw cycle costs between $3,500 and $5,000 (Deardoff, Chicago Tribune, 4/2).