More Women Freezing Eggs Amid COVID-19

More Women Freezing Eggs Amid COVID-19

Since the coronavirus pandemic, fertility clinics have reported a rise in women freezing their eggs. Fifty-four REI clinics located in major American cities told TIME magazine that the number of women freezing their eggs has increased each year. This is notable considering many clinics were forced to shut down and suspend fertility treatments during the pandemic.

Egg freezing has steadily grown more popular in the years since the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) removed the “experimental” label from the procedure in 2012.

Women were already freezing their eggs for medical reasons such as cancer and chemotherapy that could reduce their fertility, medical conditions that accelerate ovarian aging such as Fragile X or BRCA carriers  or had a medical condition like endometriosis or an autoimmune disease that could negatively impact ability to conceive.

What is Egg Freezing?

Egg freezing, or mature oocyte cryopreservation, utilizes advanced technology to freeze (“vitrification”) and store unfertilized eggs.

While the first live birth from a frozen egg was reported in 1986, it was not until late 2012 that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) announced egg freezing was not an experimental process.

Sperm freezing has been in wide use for many years. But due to the large size and water content of the human oocyte (egg), cryopreservation has been a difficult process, as ice crystals form that can damage the egg. Technological advancements in the freezing/thawing process and introduction of vitrification for freezing eggs have increased the chances of successful pregnancies with frozen eggs.

Who Can Benefit from Freezing Eggs?

Egg freezing is an option for many individuals for various reasons.

  • Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatments for certain types of cancer can result in infertility. Freezing eggs before beginning treatment gives you the option to use healthy eggs to conceive after recovering from cancer. This is also known as oncofertility preservation.
  • Career-focused. Some individuals may wish to delay pregnancy to focus on their careers. Egg freezing offers an opportunity to preserve the eggs at their healthiest, with plans to be used later. Ages 30 -37 years is the ideal time for elective egg freezing.
  • Relationship reasons. People may want to delay pregnancy until they find the right partner. Given the age-related decline in fertility, some women choose to preserve their eggs when they are younger.
  • Donated eggs. LGBTQ+ couples or those using donated eggs to have a child often use frozen eggs.
  • Transgender and transitioning. Egg freezing is an option for individuals who are transitioning and would like to preserve their eggs for future use.
  • Job hazards. For those who work with hazardous chemicals, egg freezing beforehand can store healthy oocytes before they can be damaged.
  • Ethical or religious concerns. Some individuals undergoing IVF may not want to create more embryos than can be used for pregnancy. In order to avoid this, eggs can be retrieved and frozen, then utilized singly in the future to create one embryo.

To learn more about this topic and speak to one of our physicians about fertility treatment, you can request a consultation here.

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