Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Egg Freezing and IVF

Dec. 4, 2013

With many women waiting later in life to start a family, egg freezing is gaining more popularity. It’s also giving cancer patients an opportunity to have a baby even after chemotherapy and radiation.

While the practice of freezing embryos to start a family has been around for decades, freezing eggs is an idea that’s a bit newer.

“Egg freezing is an exciting technology whereby a woman's eggs or oocytes are extracted and frozen and stored for use in the future and then in the future when she's ready to start a family those eggs are thawed, then fertilized and ultimately transferred to the uterus as embryos,” said Dr. Laura Smith, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia.

Dr. Smith says women make the decision to freeze eggs for a few different reasons

They could be delaying for work or personal reasons. Some are planning to undergo reproductive technology such as In Vitro Fertilization also known as “IVF.” The last group includes women who have been diagnosed with cancer and will have to undergo treatment with chemotherapy or radiation which could damage the eggs.

Dr. Smith says one of the main advantages to egg freezing is that the eggs stay young.

“For example, if a woman freezes her eggs when she's 30, but then delays starting a family until she’s 38, the chance of pregnancy at 38 is as if she were 30. Her chance of pregnancy is remarkably better compared to the age,” said Dr. Smith.

Egg freezing also reduces the risk of birth defects and miscarriages. According to Dr. Smith, it also has a good success rate.

“Recent studies suggest that pregnancies with eggs that have been frozen are actually equal to fresh IVF chances of pregnancy which is really the highest chance of pregnancy for any patient,” said Dr. Smith.

For many women egg freezing offers an opportunity to have a baby that otherwise might not exist.

“If she weren't able to freeze her eggs and then she undergoes some sort of treatment which leads to the loss of all the eggs, she might not otherwise have any chance of having a family, but with egg freezing she has a bank of eggs that she can use in the future,” said Dr. Smith.

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