July 1, 2010

More Fertility Clinics Offering To Freeze Eggs

Many fertility clinics have been traditionally reluctant to freeze and store eggs until a woman was ready to use them because of low success rates. But with increasing demand and higher success rates now being reported by clinics, more than half of US clinics will now do so, according to a new study.

Women who are about to have cancer therapies are the ones most likely to use this option, which has been available for the past two decades or so. But two-thirds of egg-freezing clinics will provide the service to any woman who wishes to preserve her fertility while putting off having kids.

"It's kind of an insurance against one's biological clock," lead researcher Dr. Briana Rudick of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (UCLA) said in an e-mail to Reuters Health.

"It almost allows a woman to serve as her own egg donor in the future, should she not have met Mr. Right and started a family by then," he added.

In a survey of 282 clinics across the United States, 143 said they offer egg freezing. Another 25 percent said they plan to offer it in the future. Most of the remaining clinics said that lack of demand was the main reason for not offering the service.

The researchers found, though, that not all clinics that freeze eggs will offer the service to just any woman who walks through the door. About a third restrict the option to cancer patients or to women attempting in vitro fertilization. To those who do offer the option, no more than a third will provide it to women over 40 years old.

Among the clinics surveyed, the procedure led to a pregnancy rate of 39 percent, which is similar to pregnancy rates achieved using frozen embryos in younger women. The pregnancy rates using frozen eggs are getting closer to rates using standard in vitro fertilization with fresh eggs, according to Rudick.

Egg-freezing costs generally cost between $10,000 and $12,000, which includes medications, procedure and storage, she said. Most clinics offer a year's storage included in the fee. Clinics may charge more for longer storage periods, usually around $5000.

Women who use the service before cancer therapy may be able to get at least part of the cost reimbursed.

Fresh eggs continue to result in slightly higher pregnancy and birth rates, especially in older women. But frozen eggs allow for more flexibility in terms of timing, Rudick said.

The research is published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility.


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