WEDNESDAY, June 1, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Not every woman is ready to become a mom in her late teens, 20s or even mid-30s, but a natural decline in fertility can make it harder to have a baby at 40 and beyond.
Now, a new study shows that freezing eggs when younger is a largely successful option for many women who are fertile in their youth but want to delay pregnancy for a while.
The researchers looked at the success rates of using a woman’s own frozen eggs over 15 years. They found that about 70% of women who had frozen eggs when they were under 38 and thawed at least 20 of those eggs later had a baby.
Not only that, but freezing eggs and then thawing them at a later date provided a higher pregnancy success rate than using fresh embryos with assisted reproductive technology.
“We’ve been very careful and careful in releasing the data because we want it to be the right story and the exact story. And we want women to be informed,” said the study’s author, the Dr. James Grifo, Director of the Reproduction Division. endocrinology and infertility at NYU Langone Fertility Center in New York. “Essentially, yes, you can conclude that if you freeze a batch of eggs at age 30 and need IVF at age 40, you have a better chance.”
Most of the previous research on the question of the risk of birth from frozen eggs has been based on mathematical modeling, unlike this study which was based on clinical experience.
The study was conducted at NYU Langone Fertility Center, where the first baby born by egg freezing will soon be 17 years old.
As a general rule, younger women – and therefore younger eggs – have higher pregnancy rates and lower miscarriage rates.
“We recognized that egg freezing was a way for a young female to put her eggs ‘on ice,'” said Grifo, who noted that previous research has included mouse models.
This study included 543 patients, with an average age of 38, whose eggs were collected and frozen. This is older than the optimal age for freezing eggs, which is earlier than 35 years.
Patients underwent 800 cycles of egg freezing, 605 egg thawings and 436 embryo transfers using the eggs between 2005 and 2020.
Overall, 39% of women aged 27 to 44 – most aged 35 to 40 – when their eggs were frozen had at least one child from their frozen eggs, the investigators found. This is comparable to age-matched results in IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Across all age groups of patients in the study, those who thawed 20 mature eggs had a live birth rate of 58%, which the authors called “profound and unexpected” given that the women had passed their reproductive peak.
Even 14 of the women who did not freeze their eggs until the age of 41-42 still later managed to have children from frozen eggs.
How long the eggs were stored didn’t seem to matter, the researchers noted.
The study also found that genetic screening of frozen egg embryos before implantation also resulted in lower miscarriage rates and higher numbers of live births.
A total of 211 babies were born from egg freezing during the study, recently published online in the journal Fertility and sterility.
This is compared to less than 30% getting pregnant when using fresh eggs or embryos for women in their 40s undergoing IVF and less than 20% giving birth to live babies, according to statistics that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected from nearly 500 US. fertility clinics.
Frozen eggs work just as well as frozen embryos, Grifo said.
While the study involved women with an average age of 38, the average age for egg freezing at the fertility clinic has now dropped to 34 over the past five years. Grifo said he expects even better future results.
The center sees the number of women freezing eggs tripling in 2022 compared to 2019.
Dr. Timothy Hickman is Medical Director of CCRM in Houston and President of the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology. He said: “I’m glad it’s been released because we really need data like this to see what the results are for all those frozen eggs that we’ve been freezing for years and years.”
Although women have been freezing eggs for many years, the data has been slow to emerge, Hickman added.
“It’s hard to collect because there’s so much time between when the eggs are frozen and when they’re actually thawed and used,” he explained.
“Anyone who is interested in having a child at some point who isn’t ready to have one right now, then that’s usually the best kind of patient who would approach that,” Hickman said. “Now it’s usually best to do it in your late 20s or early 30s, and generally not recommended if you’re over 38. But they’ve had patients over 38 here at the late 30s, early 40s who still used it and able to have a child.”
Egg retrieval is not an inexpensive process. It’s similar to egg retrieval for IVF, but instead of making embryos from the retrieved eggs, the eggs are frozen until a woman is ready and doctors can make the embryos from selected sperm and frozen eggs from the woman.
Grifo estimated that it costs about $15,000 to go through the process and about $1,000 a year to store the frozen eggs and more when creating embryos using the frozen eggs.
Hickman noted that he has seen the rates at which insurance companies cover IVF rise dramatically over time.
“Fortunately, we’ve seen that here in Houston a whole bunch of companies have adopted IVF coverage and often increased coverage for their employees, which we’re very pleased about,” Hickman said.
Although egg freezing seems to work for many, it is still not a guarantee of pregnancy. Even if someone appears to be fertile in tests taken at the time of recovery, the only true test of fertility is getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term, Grifo noted.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on infertility and reproductive health.
SOURCES: James Grifo, MD, PhD, director, division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, NYU Langone Fertility Center, New York; Timothy Hickman, MD, medical director, CCRM, Houston, and president, Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology; Fertility and sterilityMay 18, 2022, online
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