Guidelines For Egg Freezing To Preserve Fertility For Some Young Women

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recently issued guidelines recommending physicians provide women with a list of warnings about freezing their eggs for possible future use before conducting the procedure, the AP/Google.com reports.

According to the AP/Google.com, egg freezing was introduced more recently as away of preserving fertility for young women and girls diagnosed with cancer or other serious conditions that could make them infertile. It also is marketed as a way to help women delay conception beyond age 35.However, eggs have high water content, and ice crystals can form during either the freezing or thawing process and can harm or destroy the eggs, the AP/Google.com reports. The procedure often costs more than$10,000. There have been about 500 births from thawed eggs worldwide,and ASRM estimated a 2% to 4% chance of a live birth for every thawed egg (Neergaard, AP/Google.com, 10/22).

Guidelines, Reaction

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According to the guidelines, issued in a report by ASRM's Practice Committee, available data are insufficient to classify egg freezing as an established medical treatment, and the procedure should not be offered as a means of deferring reproductive aging. The committee recommended comprehensive counseling for any woman who might be considering egg freezing services (Reuters, 10/16).

Inaddition, the report recommended that all women considering theprocedure be told about the possibility that none of the stored eggswill survive, the potential side effects from ovary-stimulating drugsused to retrieve eggs, and that women who freeze eggs before age 35likely will never need to use them. Patients with cancer and otherillnesses might be good candidates for egg freezing because they haveno other options, the report found (AP/Google.com, 10/22).

"Withany new technology, it is vital that patients understand completelywhat the process entails and the likelihood of a successful outcome,"Marc Fritz, chair of the Practice Committee, said in a statement."Women contemplating the use of egg freezing technologies need toreceive extensive counseling to help them make a fully informeddecision," he added (ASRM release, 10/16).

Richard Paulson -- director of the University of Southern Californiain vitro fertilization program, which freezes eggs from three to fourhealthy women monthly -- said most centers that freeze eggs agree theprocedure remains experimental. "That doesn't mean that it shouldn't bemade available," Paulson said, adding, "I inform them very carefullythat this may be completely unnecessary ... that the technology may beso advanced five years from now there'll be something entirely new."Paulson also said the procedure's experimental designation requiresfertility centers to track their outcomes to help facilitateassessments of the procedure's safety (AP/Google.com, 10/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org.

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