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Elaine Brown, MD  
Female, 53
Billings, MT

Specialties: Pregnancy, Gynecology

Interests: obstetrics & gynecology, Gynecology
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Egg Freezing -- A New Option for Women

Mar 21, 2011 - 5 comments
Tags:

vitrification

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Conception over 35

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egg freezing



At long last, it seems, it has become possible to successfully freeze (and thaw) human eggs. Vitrification, a process of freezing living tissue has been an elusive goal for researchers hoping to preserve human oocytes.  Recently however, the University of Connecticut Health Center has reported a series of 6 live births from eggs that have been frozen and thawed. They  join several other centers that are also reporting success. UCHC will begin an egg donation program this summer. Their technique is one of several new safe and effective options for oocyte cryo-preservation.  Egg freezing, which has previously been considered only experimental may soon become widespread.  

Until very recently, for women, the biological clock has continued relentlessly ticking. Despite significant advances in assisted reproductive technologies, women over 40 have a small chance and beyond age 45, women have almost no hope of achieving a successful live birth using their own eggs. New methods of oocyte cryopreservation, will very likely change this, however, allowing women to better correlate their fertility desires with the career and relationship demands of today. Women with cancer or other conditions necessitating chemo or radiation therapy, probably represent the most important group for whom this technology is being developed. These women may now choose to freeze and store eggs, circumventing infertility which commonly otherwise occurs as a consequence of treatment.

Assisted reproductive technology(ART) has a long and colorful history. The first successful pregnancy resulting from artificial insemination (AI) was described in 1790. The next significant advance was not reported until 1953 when a pregnancy resulting from a frozen sperm was achieved. sperm donation and banking has since become well accepted and widely practiced. In vitro (test tube) fertilization was originally developed as a solution for women with "tubal factor" infertility. When normally fertile couples conceive, egg and sperm meet in the fallopian tube, the fertilized egg or embryo subsequently navigates onward  through the tube and ultimately implants in the endometrium (uterine lining).  Endometriosis, sexually transmitted infections or surgical scarring can cause  tubal blockages which interrupt this sequence of events.

The very first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) of a human ova in 1973 resulted in a chemical pregnancy.  The second, in 1976, an ectopic pregnancy.  Finally in  1978 Louise Brown was born.  Her successful conception was achieved through a process developed by Drs. Steptoe and Edwards. Because continued refinements in IVF technologies have now made it so successful, often more embryos than are needed result from a cycle; often as many as 20 eggs fertilize. Freezing the extra embryos was a logical next step. Interestingly, freezing and thawing embryos is much easier to do than vitrification.  Genetically more stable, than ova, embryos frozen for as long as 20 years have been thawed, transferred, and ultimately born.

For a woman without a male partner to fertilize her eggs however,"freezer burn" until now has forestalled further progress. As opposed to men who are continually manufacturing new sperm cells, women are born with their ovaries "preloaded" with eggs.  At birth, a woman's ovaries have about 2 million eggs.  At puberty only about 400,000 remain.  By the average age of menopause, 50, there will be only approximately 1000 remaining.  Not only are eggs lost to atresia, but as they age, they suffer wear and tear.  The delicate machinery that allows an egg to divide its chromosomes properly in half, breaks down over time.  Abnormal numbers of chromosomes in an egg result in embryos which may not implant, may miscarry, or may result in the birth of a child with problems such as Down's syndrome. By the time a woman is 45, her risk of having a child with Down's syndrome reaches 1/30 live births. Her risk of all types of chromosomally-mediated birth defects is approx 1/10.


It seems possible that at last persistent "tweaking" of the vitrification procedure has finally paid off. UConn's first successful live birth from an egg which was frozen, reported in 2002, has now been succeeded by 5 more babies.
Worldwide, over 900 babies have been born following oocyte cryopreservation. UConn will begin an egg freezing program this summer. Initially their goal is to permit women needing cancer treatment to store their eggs for the future when improved health may permit pregnancy.  Soon, many healthy women may have the opportunity to take advantage of this promising new technology. Already we are beginning to see egg and sperm banks side by side. For more information on UConn's program see:
http://www.dailycampus.com/news/uchc-to-begin-egg-freezing-program-1.2020449



Comments
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by Birdsong, Mar 21, 2011
Hi Elaine and fellow readers,
It's great to see this very important topic raised as it has the potential to succeed for millions of women who may face impending infertility.
According to the article you've given a link to
http://www.dailycampus.com/news/uchc-to-begin-egg-freezing-program-1.2020449
"Egg freezing will also be beneficial for women suffering from cancer and other medical conditions who want to preserve their fertility before undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, Siano [Linda Siano is chief embryologist at UCHC] said. Recent advances of this process have led to higher survival and pregnancy rates. Nine hundred babies have recently been born after oocyte cryopreservation, according to Siano."

I presume the nine hundred babies recently born after oocyte cryopreservation refers to births around the world at various centers using this technique, suggesting that the technique is already an option which may be successful for women who do not have a partner or who for other reasons do not wish to take the path of freezing embryos.

The website FertileHope says on the page
http://www.fertilehope.org/learn-more/cancer-and-fertility-info/parenthood-options-women.cfm#TID5
"There are currently two ways to freeze eggs: slow freezing (sometimes called controlled rate freezing) and vitrification (fast freezing). More than 90% of the babies born from egg freezing today were from slow freezing protocols; however, many fertility centers are getting improved success rates with vitrification."

I'm wondering if your heading "Egg Freezing -- Possibly a New Option for Women Soon" might not do full justice to the successes already achieved by freezing eggs.

Cheers,
Ed Everest.




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by Moma_Cher, Mar 22, 2011
Really awesome news, I only wish it was developed 15 years ago ;)

I look at young but maturing starlets like Kim Kardashian and wonder if she realizes she is past her fertility peak? I'm sur the answer is no. This is not discussed in the open enough, and women often are so naive about fertility and age... What a shame.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard women say they thought they could get pregnant as long as they still had a period and were not menopausal. I thought the same thing. Why is that? I am not of lower socioeconomic class, nor am I uneducated.... Why do we women not know this?

We are always told our career comes first, get your degree... Establish your position.... Get that promotion. Babies can wait, society tells us. Birth control (and abortion for that matter) is readily available and encouraged by our medical field professionals. Our Dr's have no problem asking us "what are you using for birth control" but I have never in my life heard the question "when do you plan to start having babies!"

Hopefully with this new advancement, our obgyn's might start asking about our desires for children and inform us about aging fertility and the options we have.... But I'm not holding my breath!

Thanks for the great informative post!

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by adgal, Mar 26, 2011
Oh how I wish this had been available when I was 25.  I don't think it ever occured to me that when I was ready my body may no longer be.  With so many of us focusing on career first, marriage and family later, this is wonderful news indeed.  Also, for those of us (such as myself) who were in no position to have a child in my truly fertile years, what a blessing this is.  

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by abby913, Apr 27, 2011
Hi, I am 10 weeks pregnant i just wanna know if xerox machine has radiation and can affect my pregnancy, at work i dont notice sometimes i dont notice when they use it and its ony 3-4 feet away from me, please give me response...Thanks


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by Christy375, Feb 14, 2012
Hi everyone.  I have a question, I am currently going through an IVF cycle, I had 16 eggs harvested, 11 of them were mature and 8 took.  On Feb. 6 th I had 2 transferred on day 3.  While at the hospital on the 6th my DH and I asked about freezing the other 6.  We were told we would receive a letter in the mail telling us when they had been frozen.  When I got home from work last night, we had a letter telling us that none of our eggs were freezable.  I go for my pregnancy test on  Feb. 20th and am losing hope fast.  They told us that everything looked great for someone my age. (I am 36)

I want to know is it common not to be able to freeze eggs?  Everyone I know who has done IVF was able to freeze their eggs and mm I domed for a negative test on the 20th and should I test myself today? I know I could get a false positive, but at least I could have some hope.

Sorry I know I gave a lot of information, but I am really freaking out.  

Thank you and baby dust to you all.

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