Local fertility expert says women should weigh several factors before freezing eggs

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Women hoping to become mothers are seeing a growing number of options and flexibility thanks to fertility technology. Newer technology allowing eggs - not embryos- to be frozen is leading to a new business trend - egg freezing boutiques.

Fertility experts are seeing an increase across the nation in social, or non-medical egg freezing. Often, women cite professional, financial and personal relationships as factors for delaying starting a family.

While there are many reasons to use the egg cryopreserving methods, one central Ohio doctor is urging caution.

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"These places are cropping up just to do the freezing, to make money from that. What happens down the road is someone else's issue," said Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Grant Schmidt.

The local fertility expert said he worries some cryopreserve boutiques are not clear about all of the risks up front, including that they do not have the equipment it takes to actually implant the eggs that are being frozen.

There are several things Dr. Schmidt says women should think of when electing to freeze their eggs for later pregnancies. Another big factor is the expense.

"It can vary," said Dr. Schmidt. He estimates one woman could see a fee of $9,000 to roughly $25,000 to retrieve eggs, depending on the number of rounds it takes to procure the intended amount of eggs. Then, that woman could pay another roughly $400 or more every year those eggs are stored. Over the common storage timeframe of 10 years, that would add up to $4,000. Finally, a person could see another approximately $12,000 for a reproductive center's attempts to thaw and implant the eggs within a woman's womb.

He says another important factor to contemplate is viability. Research at this point shows there is a low probability that an egg cryogenically preserved with tested technology would progress to a successful pregnancy.

"The technical ability to freeze eggs has been and still remains difficult. Success rates are not as good with frozen eggs as with embryos," said Dr. Schmidt. "A woman's age at the time the eggs are frozen is important."

Shortly after the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) announced that they would no longer consider egg freezing to be experimental, they cautioned against the use of egg freezing as a guard on age-related fertility decline. It referenced the limited data about the safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness and emotional risks of egg freezing for healthy women of reproductive age. In 2014, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed the guideline.

"Nobody knows how successful this is going to be because we haven't gone 10 years from the time women freezing their eggs in their 30s began the process. We don't know how successful that's going to be," said Dr. Schmidt.

Not every woman who freezes her eggs is doing an elective procedure. Some women are planning ahead due to medical complications, like taking chemotherapy treatments.

Fertility experts suggest before any procedure, a woman should have a contract laying out the following things:

  • How long you want the eggs to be stored for (the standard period is 10 years)
  • What should happen to your eggs if you were to die or become unable to make decisions for yourself
  • Whether the eggs are to be used for your own treatment only, or whether they can be donated for someone else's treatment, or used for research or training if you don't want to use them
  • Any other conditions you may have for the use of your eggs