A committee of doctors and fertility scientists overseeing egg-freezing procedures have agreed that birth outcomes are just as good as when “fresh” eggs are used and, consequently, are dropping the “experimental” label. Good news for young women who will undergo cancer treatments but don’t want to give up the possibility of conceiving.
However, in giving egg-freezing the green light, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine stopped short of endorsing the method for women who simply want to delay child-bearing.
Clinics will likely ignore ASRM’s rather intrusive attitude, however. Egg-freezing had previously only been approved for clinical trials, but an increasing number of fertility doctors have been offering oocyte cryopreservation services since 2008 anyway, according to a report in “Nature” and reprinted on the Scientific American website.
The ASRM decided to stop considering the procedure experimental after reviewing more than 100 studies and concluded that children conceived using eggs that had once been frozen were not at an increased risk for being born with chromosome abnormalities or birth defects.
Still, the committee says the data is incomplete determining whether getting pregnant using eggs that have been frozen and stored is more difficult than using recently extracted ones. According to SA, only four randomized trials have been conducted testing success rates. Though the four studies found success rates to be equal, members of the committee say that observational studies indicate success rates are lower for the stored eggs.
The technique may also be putting future offspring’s health at risk. From SA:
Some studies suggest that babies born using assisted reproductive technologies are at an increased risk for certain rare disorders — the neurological condition Angelman syndrome, for example — that result from changes in the chemical modifications to DNA known as ‘epigenetic marks’.
If these egg-preserving techniques are going to be increasingly used for women who want to delay motherhood, more studies will be needed to see when women should make the move to store their eggs. Some small studies conclude that success rates aren’t as good the older a woman undergoing the procedure is.
Despite that, no longer categorizing the procedure as experimental means the service will be increasingly available for women who want to give it a try.