Healthbeat Report: Freezing for the Future

November 15, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Two successful single Chicago business women with two different stories. Both heard their biological clocks ticking. Each turned to egg freezing.

"I had the rest of my life to find a mate but I didn't have the rest of my life related to my fertility," said Troy Dickerson.

"I think it's just knowing that that window of opportunity to make that choice to have a child is closing," said Wendy Potocnic.

It's a technique that's improved so much some say it's revolutionizing a women's reproductive choice. It allows the eggs to be stored unfertilized meaning you don't have to choose the father immediately.

Following the end of a long term relationship, Potocnic made the choice to freeze her eggs. Doctors were able to retrieve 15 eggs for her to bank. They say at her age she was lucky.

"I was willing to hedge my bets and take my chances," said Potocnic.

A women's ability to conceive begins dropping around 35, then more rapidly around 40. Egg production drops and those left are not as healthy. But with freezing no longer considered experimental. There's good reason more healthy women will choose to take advantage of it.

But it's not an easy process emotionally or financially. It requires giving yourself what some consider painful hormone injections for weeks.. And then an out-patient procedure to retrieve the eggs. And it's not cheap anywhere from $10 to $15,000.

Doctors at Reproductive Medicine Institute say it's a decision that should be carefully thought out.

"Part of it is very exciting but part of it we really want women to have children when they are young so it is bittersweet," said Dr. Elena Trukhacheva, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Reproductive Medicine Institute.

Other concerns include who's really the best candidate and are single healthy women going to hold off having babies because they look at egg freezing as a security blanket.

So how successful is egg freezing? Well, some insist there's more to learn but some studies are showing frozen eggs have a fertilization rate between 71 and 79 percent. The pregnancy rate is between 36 and 61 percent.

"It would probably be a disservice to recommend for everybody to freeze eggs," said Dr. Trukhacheva.

With no plans for marriage anytime soon, Dickerson turned to egg freezing at 37. At 43 she is now the overjoyed single mother of two boys, ages 3 years and 5 months. She urges others not to take this lightly.

"Mentally, you have to be very strong because there are ups and down through the process," said Dickerson.

Most doctors are supportive of egg freezing for women diagnosed with cancer and other diseases or for couples facing serious infertility. But the point is lifting the experimental label from this technique could encourage more clinics to start publicly reporting success rates using frozen eggs. That might encourage more healthy women to use it as a family-planning method.

American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Reproductive Medicine Institute

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