Frozen Eggs

Women freezing their eggs against future infertility –or, as a lifestyle choice.  We’ll look at the science and its limits.

Colour-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a human egg by Yorgos Nikas. (Flickr)

Colour-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a human egg by Yorgos Nikas. (Flickr)

For most of history, when women were out of eggs they were out of luck when it came to reproducing, to bearing children.  Then came the freezing of human eggs.  Formally for women facing fertility-damaging medical treatment.  For couples in fertility treatment.

But also, it turned out, for women getting older who just weren’t ready pregnancy.  Didn’t have the right partner, the right job, the right circumstances.  So they’d freeze some eggs.  For when the time came.

This hour, On Point:  women freezing their eggs against future infertility.  How far does this go?

-Tom Ashbrook


Samantha Pfeifer, associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society.

Jennifer Hayes, a woman who has frozen her eggs.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal “There is growing evidence suggesting that freezing an embryo after fertilization and thawing it for use in the woman’s next monthly cycle leads to higher pregnancy rates, compared with using the embryo immediately. A recent scientific review of three small randomized and controlled studies found that 50% of women got pregnant after receiving in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatment using a recently frozen embryo. By contrast, women receiving fresh embryos had a 38% pregnancy rate. The review is slated for publication in Fertility and Sterility, the journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.”

Scientific American “More than 900 babies have been born using the technique, which the ASRM called “experimental” in 2008. With that designation, the society approved of the use of egg freezing only in clinical trials overseen by an institution review board (IRB). Despite the ASRM policy, clinics have increasingly been offering the technique outside of this framework as a clinical service for a fee. Now the society is effectively giving such clinics a green light, a development that is likely to encourage consumer groups advocating for insurance providers to cover the procedure.”

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