Egg freezing as the latest choice in family planning

For decades, “family planning” was synonymous with contraception. The Guttmacher Institute — a prominent reproductive health think tank — stated that “controlling family timing and size can be a key to unlocking opportunities for economic success, education, and equality” for women. In fact, their most recent analysis concluded that effective contraception has contributed to increasing women’s earning power and narrowing the gender pay gap.

Whether for these reasons or not, studies have consistently demonstrated that many women are choosing to delay childbearing. The age of first birth for women in developed countries is now approaching 28 and the birth rate in the USA is at an all time low…it is important that more women become aware of the potential benefit of oocyte freezing. In a recent study called “Baby Budgeting,” one research group described this technique of freezing/storing eggs as a “technologic bridge” from a woman’s reproductive prime to her preferred conception age.

Today egg freezing has made it possible for women to truly “plan their family” by storing eggs for later use. The first successful pregnancy from frozen eggs was reported in 1986. But for decades the process remained very inefficient, requiring about 100 eggs for each successful pregnancy. Therefore, the procedure was considered experimental and primarily offered to women that were faced with chemotherapy, radiation, or other fertility-robbing treatments used to treat serious illnesses. But with the development of more effective techniques for freezing eggs; success rates in many centers using frozen eggs is nearly as good as it is with using fresh eggs.

As a result of this improvement in pregnancy rates, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine lifted the “experimental” label from egg freezing and began supporting its use for social (rather than medical) reasons

For practical reasons, the process of creating a fertility plan should involve consideration of a woman’s current age, how many children she would like to have, and her ovarian reserve. Existing guidelines suggest that if a woman is in good health, younger than 31 with a normal ovarian reserve, she should wait and reevaluate her situation every one to three years. At the other end of the spectrum, if a woman is more than 38, she should consult with a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist to discuss her options.

The wider the range of choices available to a woman, the better. This doesn’t mean choices get easier – but, the ability to choose, to decide when or whether she has a pregnancy, offers a broader look at the life she wants to build.

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