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American Society for Reproductive Medicine Says Eggs Are Best Fresh, Not Frozen

Human ovumOnly in rare cases should women freeze their eggs in order to save them for fertilization at a later date, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. CNN explains the ASRM recommendations: “the procedure should not be used for ‘social’ reasons and instead limited to women who are undergoing cancer treatment, those experiencing early menopause or women with ethical objections to freezing embryos.”

The guidelines have gotten coverage in several other outlets, including the British press. The BBC interviewed doctors and advocates who frame egg freezing as an expansion of reproductive choices for women.

The Daily Telegraph reports that about 200 women in the United Kingdom have had their eggs frozen since the procedure became available eight years ago, but only four babies have been born from eggs stored in this manner. And The Times of London notes that according to the ASRM, data from 100,000 births would be needed to ensure the safety of the procedure.

Dr. Roger Pierson, chair of the communications committee of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, points out in a Canadian Press article that patients usually have a reasonable expectation that the medical techniques they pay for will work. But eggs are difficult to freeze and thaw successfully, as New Scientist explains. A successfully thawed egg has only a 2 percent to 4 percent chance of producing a live birth. The latter story also discusses the miscarriage rate, which is comparable to that of normal in vitro fertilization pregnancies, and the occurrence of birth defects, which is only 1 percent worldwide.

Dr. Richard Paulson, director of the University of Southern California’s in vitro fertilization program, has this suggestion for patients: “I inform them very carefully that this may be completely unnecessary … that the technology may be so advanced five years from now there’ll be something entirely new.”

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