THE BLOG
03/27/2014 12:32 pm ET Updated May 27, 2014

What Is Egg Freezing and Why Have You Been Hearing So Much About It?

If you've watched one of the morning news programs anytime in the few years, you've probably noticed quite a few stories about women freezing their eggs. It seems as if more and more women in their 20s to mid-30s are talking more openly about their desire to have children with one caveat: not now.

IVF Pregnancy Rates Using Frozen Eggs Are Comparable to IVF Using Fresh Eggs

While celebrities like Maria Menounos and Sofia Vergara have talked about their decision to freeze their eggs there is still a lot of confusion. First, what exactly is egg freezing and why does it suddenly seem much more accessible? Fertility doctors such as myself have been trying for many years to crack the code about the best way to maintain excellent quality eggs, much like we've been able to do with freezing sperm.

Cyropreservation -- using a slow-freezing method -- delivered inconsistent results due to the potential for ice crystals to form in the egg, thus ruining its quality. In October 2012, the organization that sets standards for our profession, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), lifted its ban on egg freezing. This was due to the development of a new technology called vitrification, which is the process of flash freezing eggs. Vitrification was found to be more successful than slow-freezing. Specifically, the ASRM cited studies demonstrating egg freezing using vitrification resulted in pregnancy rates comparable to the same rates expected from an IVF treatment cycle using fresh eggs.

Freezing Eggs in the Early to Mid-30s Optimizes Pregnancy Later

Now that the ban has been lifted practices like Shady Grove Fertility have witnessed a significant increase in the number of women who want to freeze their eggs. For healthy, non-smoking women egg freezing can definitely provide some peace of mind if they are concerned pregnancy won't be an option for them in the near future. Basically, through egg freezing a woman's fertility potential is captured at the time the eggs are frozen. For example, now a 40-year-old woman using her own eggs, which were frozen when she was 35, can expect the comparable chances of delivering a baby as a 35-year-old women going through IVF using fresh eggs. At Shady Grove Fertility, we will freeze eggs for women between the ages of 30-40, depending on their ovarian testing, but to optimize future chances of conception, we recommend women freeze in their early to mid-30s, when fertility is still near its peak.

Women with Cancer Are Able Preserve Fertility before Undergoing Cancer Treatment

Egg freezing is also beneficial for women who have been diagnosed with cancer, and who would like to try to preserve their fertility before undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Because these treatments can compromise fertility, egg freezing can be a positive option at a difficult time.

No Need to Freeze

Now, there is certainly a group of women who do not need to freeze their eggs. If you are in your 20s and want to wait to have children, you have plenty of time! The chances of becoming pregnant naturally are higher for a woman in her 20s and you may just not need those eggs you paid to freeze.

Subscribe to the In(formation) email.
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers.