Career women who want to delay motherhood, and would-be moms who haven't yet met Dad, are turning in growing numbers to services that remove and freeze their eggs until the time is right. Indeed, many fertility clinics claim that a 40-year-old woman has a better chance of conceiving when she uses young eggs from her 25-year-old self. But here's a newly pronounced reality check from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine: The technique is still too experimental for these women to count on.
"The data is limited," says Marc Fritz, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and chair of the asrm Practice Committee. So far, only about 500 to 600 births worldwide have resulted from frozen eggs, and a single thawed egg yields a healthy pregnancy just 2 to 4 percent of the time. This compares with success rates of about 25 to 43 percent for a cycle of in vitro fertilization using freshly harvested eggs.
Many of the women now preserving their eggs are doing it in their mid- or late 30s, when eggs have already begun to age; the $10,000 price tag and invasiveness of egg retrieval and storage don't make much sense for 20-somethings, on the other hand, because they're likely to get married and pregnant before they need the eggs. There are good candidates, though: women undergoing cancer treatments that could cause them to become infertile. Egg freezing may be their only hope of ever having a biological child.