Egg Freezing Is No Longer ‘Experimental’ But Don’t Sign Up Your Daughter Just Yet

egg freezingPutting some eggs on ice for future conception is no longer lingering in the faulty stages of development. CNN reports that the American Society of Reproductive Medicine thinks that the “experimental” label should be officially moved from egg freezing. However certain doctors hasten you to not consider the procedure as the go-to gift for your med school bound-daughter just yet. Until we move towards a more progressive workplace structure that mirrors the change in families (i.e. not Mad Men), the practice is just a band-aid on a much larger wound.

CNN reports that after reviewing “four randomized controlled trials” and some observation studies, the society compared fertilization, embryo, and pregnancy rates with fresh eggs versus frozen ones. (Icey eggs were frozen through vitrification). The findings appeared pretty promising:

Overall, frozen (or vitrified) eggs had fertilization rates between 71 and 79%, implantation rates between 17 and 41% and clinical pregnancy rates (positive pregnancy tests) between 36 and 61%.

The data also showed no increase in birth defects, developmental disorders or chromosomal abnormalities when in vitro fertilization cycles were conducted with frozen eggs, leading the society to declare the technique effective and safe.

“The technology and technique are getting better, and success rates are good,” said Dr. Samantha Pfeifer, chairwoman of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s practice committee. “So with those studies, we felt comfortable saying there is a lot of information on how oocyte cryopreservation is improving.”

Dr. Zsolt Peter Nagy, an embryologist and scientific director at Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, describes vitrification – the solidifying without ice crystallization — as “very important.” No crystallization means that the eggs are overall healthier without any damage to the cell membranes. Dr. Nagy explains the process as “the biggest danger for eggs,” which then deteriorate due to ice crystallization.

However, doctors seem divided on how women, and even young women and girls, should process this bit of information. Dr. Eric Widra, chairman of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology practice committee, says that ladies should “proceed cautiously” with this “elective technique.” Especially, you geezer mamas. According to her, you healthy ladies should take a backseat to those who are actually struggling with fertility problems:

“There is an inherent conflict between the desire to freeze eggs and the need to freeze eggs. Freezing eggs for the future sounds like a good insurance policy but may not be an insurance policy that needs to be cashed in.”

Widra says that the best way to conceive is still through natural intercourse at an appropriate age and that vitrification should be reserved for women and couples with urgent infertility needs, like patients with medical indications that they will lose their fertility (perhaps a woman with cancer or a specific genetic condition), couples going through IVF who don’t have sufficient sperm or couples who are unable or unwilling to freeze embryos.

Some other specialists in the fertility world don’t share Dr. Windra’s view, including Dr. Lagey. Because women are partnering later and therefore having children later, more women are encountering fertility issues. Other specialists maintain that ladies who are looking to put off babies until their mid- to late 30s should consult a doctor on the process.  Nevertheless, there are an array of health concerns that accompany this procedure which Amanda Marcotte pointed out on DoubleX.

This milestone in medicine should absolutely be championed for the less healthy sect. But if we’re considering egg freezing as the sole godsend to our able-bodied, ambitious girls intent on a demanding career ahead, we’d better think again. If we’re looking to give our daughters an anxiety-free path into the workforce, we’re better off going after the archaic workplace policies in which they will work rather than tinkering with their bodies. The latter fails to address the much more pressing needs of not just when women can have children, but when they can care for them — and for how long, along with hypothetical partners. While I’m pleased these options are available to those who really need the procedure, such as women with cancer, funneling our otherwise healthy girls into mass egg freezing treats the symptom, not the problem: workplace structure that does not accommodate the needs of modern American parents, whether they’re male or female, have chosen adoption, or even have eggs to freeze in the first place.

(photo: Tomislav Forgo/ Shutterstock)

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