Recent articles in the New York Times and in popular women’s magazines are bringing into the public spotlight an awareness of fertility preservation through egg vitrification. This emerging technology holds the promise to help women who are not yet ready to conceive but wish to be able to preserve their fertility for a future time when they may be more ready to raise a family.
While the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has given egg freezing a green light for use in patients with cancer or other diseases that may result in loss of their fertility, they are more hesitant to recommend egg freezing purely in order to delay childbearing. Part of the reason they are hesitant to endorse it is because of the lack of data.
Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area has long been interested in helping women (and men) build families at the most opportune time for them. We began elective egg freezing in 2008 when the best technology was slow freeze of eggs harvested at the time of an IVF cycle. However continued research in the field has shown that egg vitrification may allow more eggs to survive the freezing and thawing process. We subsequently have done extensive training in egg vitrification in order to produce top outcomes in the field.
While many fertility centers claim high numbers of women who have undergone elective egg freezing, this is not the most important statistic. Survival of the high quality eggs after thaw and subsequent pregnancy rates are the 2 most critical statistics.
Before offering patients elective freezing of eggs for fertility preservation, RSC undertook a study to prove the validity and the safety of this technology. Although that study was small, it included current infertility patients who were willing to freeze their eggs, subsequently thaw, fertilize, and then transfer embryos in order to allow us to get an accurate pregnancy rate for these patients. The pregnancy rate was 35%, which was not statistically different than the pregnancy rate for a similar patient undergoing a fresh IVF cycle.
RSC has also been part of Donor Egg Bank USA. This is an egg banking consortium which has proven thaw rates and pregnancy rates for donors who have undergone egg vitrification. Since donors eggs are quickly chosen to be used in fertility cycles for recipients, we have nearly immediate results on the safety and efficacy of egg vitrification. In the first year of launch, our center alone has pregnancy rates from 15 cycles of egg thawing, showing a 53% success rate. The donor eggs that our center has frozen have been used in 20 cycles throughout the egg bank network thus far and have a 70% success rate per batch. We are proud to say that this technology works and works well for young healthy women wishing to freeze eggs.
Our center, like many others, still has a smaller number of patients that have electively frozen their eggs to be used in the future for fertility outside of our egg banking work and our previously mentioned study. However we feel confident in offering success rates that are backed by outcome data. It is this data that allows us and encourages us to counsel women who are considering fertility preservation through egg banking to undergo the two-week procedure of daily shots in order to harvest eggs that could be used in the future to create the family they have always dreamed of having.