Offered as a podcast for those 'trying to build a family', the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) calls upon experts to discuss about the most important topics and issues relating to fertility testing and treatment. The focus of this episode is egg donation, in particular the question of whether patients should choose to use fresh or frozen eggs.
The host, Dr Mark Trolice, a leading expert in reproductive medicine, and Dr Jennifer Kawwass, who is a medical director and associate professor at Emory Reproductive Centre, come together to give a comprehensive overview of the process of egg donation and to delve into the practical considerations that couples must take before choosing this as the method to start their families. It is important to note that the information given reflects US medical practices and so international patients would be advised to look into resources specific to their country.
The podcast begins with a closer look at the headline question, 'Donor Eggs: Fresh or Frozen'. Although the experimental label on egg freezing was not removed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ARSM) until 2012 (see BioNews 681), Dr Kawwass explains that we see comparable success with fresh eggs. The treatment was initially used as a fertility preservation option for women undergoing treatment that may affect their fertility, such as chemotherapy, but is now available to a wider selection of patients. Dr Kawwass explains that she would recommend either treatment on a case-to-case basis as although they are equally successful there are specific circumstances in which one would be more suitable, for example the usage of a fresh egg donor means that a larger cohort of eggs is obtained and the couple would subsequently have the opportunity to have a larger family.
I particularly enjoyed how accessible this section of the podcast was as Dr Kawwass gave an excellent description of both sides of what is undoubtedly a complex debate, whilst keeping scientific jargon to a minimum. This allows room for listeners to come to their own decision on the question and certainly shows that this podcast is potentially an invaluable source of information for those who wish to learn more about assisted reproductive services in the US, whether they are hoping to be a recipient or a donor. I would say that since Dr Kawwass emphasises the importance of information related to egg donation being considered on a case-to-case basis, patients who are looking for more than a general discussion would benefit less from this podcast than those who would use this as an introduction to the process.
Dr Trolice and Dr Kawwass then move on to discuss the process of egg donation for both the donor and the recipient, once again showing how this podcast is a good resource for patients looking for an introduction to this form of assisted reproduction. They describe aspects such as the rigorous FDA-mandated screening process both donors and recipients must go through while weaving in the differences in the process that patients may see if they have chosen a directed donor instead of an anonymous one. Dr Kawwass also answers a series of what seemed to me as potentially common questions that listeners might have, such as what is perceived by clinics to be the cut-off age for recipients of egg donation and whether a patient who has not experienced menopause should still consider egg donation as a means of assisted reproduction.
This podcast should be commended for its skilful expression of the debates and the methods involved within assisted reproduction. The experts do not attempt to claim that their opinion is final and consistently remind the audience of the variation between cases, meaning that listeners are able to obtain a thorough yet clear introduction to the topic. This podcast series is in its early days, having only begun in June, and so the audience can expect to see a full range of topics covered as more episodes are released.