Doctors' group sounds warning on freezing eggs to buy time on your biological clock
Sarah Elizabeth Richards
Thinking about freezing your eggs to buy yourself a few more
baby-making years? Not so fast, says the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The doctor's organization issued
a statement Monday warning healthy women not to use egg freezing to
pause their biological clocks. "We don't want to give patients the
impression that this technology can guarantee a successful pregnancy,"
explains Samantha Butts, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and
gynecology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, who was on
the committee that issued the statement.
"We are not endorsing
widespread use of egg freezing for women who want to delay motherhood,"
says Butts, explaining that it should only be used for women who are
facing cancer or other medical treatments that could destroy their
fertility. "We still need to study it more to determine its safety,
ethics and cost-effectiveness."
The warning comes in the
middle of egg freezing's cultural moment. Last fall, the American
Society for Reproductive Medicine welcomed the procedure to the
mainstream by removing the "experimental" label and acknowledging
freezing techniques that resulted in similar in-vitro fertilization
success rates as fresh eggs. A string of celebrities, like Sofia Vergara,
boasted of their recent trips to the freezer. More than half of
fertility clinics now offer the procedure, which costs between $7,000
and $12,000, and doctors are reporting a surge of inquiries.
Wickliffe, a 29-year-old graphic designer from New York, had broached
the topic with her ob-gyn over the past few years, but the doctor
pooh-poohed the idea, saying she was too young. But then Wickliffe broke
up with her boyfriend of three years and was diagnosed with polycystic
ovary syndrome, a hormone disorder affecting 5 percent to 10 percent of
women of childbearing age that can cause infertility.
she'd have trouble getting pregnant by the time she found love,
Wickliffe asked her doctor again if she should consider freezing her
eggs. The doctor referred her to a fertility doctor, who last summer
prescribed Wickliffe two weeks of hormone shots and surgically retrieved
12 eggs to be used when she was ready to have children. "I thought that
if I had the chance to put away eggs that are healthy now, I should do
it," explains Wickliffe. "I'd have some insurance, no matter what
happened in my love live. My younger eggs would be waiting for me."
egg freezing became available in the U.S. a decade ago, many doctors
haven't felt comfortable recommending it to women who planned to put off
starting a family while they searched for romantic partners or waited
for a better time in their careers. The issue: What if women waited
until their mid-40's to use them? If their eggs didn't work, their
natural fertility would be gone, and they'd be left empty-handed. Since
the science is so new, it's too early to tell how the option to stash
away some fertility for later will affect women's life choices. Yet a
of nearly 200 women who had frozen their eggs between 2005 and 2011 at
New York University Langone Medical Center that was published in Fertility & Sterility
found that 59 percent of egg freezing patients viewed egg freezing as a
backup plan in case natural pregnancy became impossible, 38 percent
regarded it as a backup plan and a way to defer conventional
reproduction, and only 3 percent thought about it mainly as a way to put
off having children.
After going through a breakup with her
boyfriend of two years just before her 40th birthday, Mimi Clarke, a
horticulturalist from San Francisco, froze 16 eggs at the Pacific
Fertility Center in San Francisco in 2011. But she waited only a year
before deciding to use them. "I tried meeting someone else through
online dating or hoping I would meet someone walking the dog or at a
party, but when that didn't happen, I realized I didn't want to wait any
longer to be a mom," she says. "I decided I would do it on my own."
also wanted to take advantage of her remaining fertility and underwent
three rounds of intrauterine insemination in which doctors injected
donor sperm directly into her uterus during ovulation. When those
failed, she decided to thaw her eggs. Doctors implanted one resulting
embryo and froze the other. Clarke is scheduled to deliver a baby girl
Dr. Butts hopes this latest round of warnings
against so-called "social" egg freezing will encourage ob-gyns to
initiate discussions with patients about their family plans from a young
age and talk about alternatives to egg freezing, such as the more
reliable method of freezing embryos with donor sperm, or simply trying
to get pregnant at a younger age without a partner.
meantime, counselors like Izetta Siegal Stern, who organizes support
groups sponsored by the American Fertility Association for women
considering egg freezing, urges ob-gyns to include egg freezing in those
discussions, so women can make their own informed decisions. "I
understand that these professional associations would like to see more
research data on all aspects of elective egg freezing, but this will
take years, and those maybe will be lost years for women who could
benefit from egg freezing now," she says.
Wickliffe hopes she
won't need to use her eggs. Since she froze her eggs, she's in another
serious relationship and would like to start her family by her mid-30s.
"The doctors told me it wasn't a sure thing," she says. "I don't want to
take the risk that it might not work."
Saturday, January 20 2018 6:08 PM EST2018-01-20 23:08:09 GMT
Republicans and Democrats appear to be no closer to ending a government shutdown, and the White House is indicating it's waiting for Democrats to drop their demand that a funding bill include protections for...More
Republicans and Democrats appear to be no closer to ending a government shutdown, and the White House is indicating it's waiting for Democrats to drop their demand that a funding bill include protections for "Dreamers.".More