October 20, 2012
Experts Move To Make Freezing Eggs Standard Infertility Treatment
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Long labeled an "experimental" infertility treatment, the freezing of a woman's eggs for use at a later time should now be considered a standard technique, new guidelines issued by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) declared on Friday.
According to CNN reporter Caitlin Hagan, the ASRM reviewed data for a quartet of randomized, controlled trials, as well as from multiple observational studies. Those studies and trials compared fertilization rates, embryo implantation rates and pregnancy rates of fresh eggs with those from eggs frozen using the method of vitrification.
"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%," Hagan said. "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 new guidelines are expected to put pressure on insurance companies to pay for the previously experimental procedure, as well as make it easier for some women (such as cancer patients) to remain fertile and increase the popularity of egg-donation banking facilities, according to AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard. However, the ASRM report stops short of recommending vitrification for women hoping to put off having children until later in life for non-medical reasons.
"We think we should proceed cautiously in using this as an elective technique, especially in older patients," Dr. Eric Widra, chairman of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology practice committee, told Hagan. "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."
"This shift doesn't mean that egg-freezing is a realistic panacea for women who worry that career concerns and the dating market will make child-bearing economically or personally infeasible until their 40s," added Amanda Marcotte of The Slate. "Yes, dramatic advancements in the freezing technology have improved the rate of conception with thawed eggs, but it's also clear that the technology was mainly developed for very young cancer patients whose ovaries are going to be wiped out by chemotherapy."