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More US fertility clinics now 'freeze' eggs

12 July 2010
Appeared in BioNews 566

More than half of US fertility clinics are now prepared to 'freeze' eggs, a new study has revealed. This option was traditionally reserved for women undergoing cancer therapy or for other medical reasons, but now two out of every three clinics in the US that provide egg 'freezing' will offer the service to healthy women who simply want to preserve their fertility while delaying childbearing, the study found.

'It's kind of an insurance against one's biological clock', lead researcher Dr Briana Rudick of the University of Southern California told Reuters Health. 'It almost allows a woman to serve as her own egg donor in the future, should she not have met Mr Right and started a family by then'.

Dr Rudick and her colleagues surveyed 282 clinics across the US, of which 143 said they offer egg 'freezing'. Another quarter said they plan to offer it in the near future, with most of the rest citing a lack of demand as their main reason for holding back.

Not all clinics that 'freeze' eggs offered the procedure indiscriminately, however. The researchers found that a third still restrict the option to cancer patients or as an alternative to 'freezing' leftover embryos for women attempting in vitro fertilisation. Only 26 per cent of clinics surveyed would provide the option to women beyond 40 years old.

While it has long been possible to freeze sperm and embryos for future use in fertility treatment, it has taken much longer to achieve this routinely for eggs. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine Practice Committee calls egg 'freezing' 'experimental since efficacy and safety are unproven'.

But the technique is seeing growing acceptance, the study authors say. According to Dr Rudick, this is in part because pregnancy rates with frozen embryos are now approaching success rates using standard IVF on fresh eggs. Egg 'freezing' at the centres in the study had a 39 per cent pregnancy rate, which for younger women is comparable to success rates using frozen embryos.

The study was published in medical journal Fertility and Sterility.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
More than half of fertility clinics now freeze eggs
Reuters |  30 June 2010
The status of oocyte cryopreservation in the United States
Fertility and Sterility |  18 June 2010
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