Women turning to freezing eggs to preserve fertility - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Women turning to freezing eggs to preserve fertility

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -
In the last decade, pregnancy rates have dropped for women under the age of 30 and increased for women 30 and over, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Some women choosing to put a career first and still want to have kids later.

To preserve their fertility, many are shelling out to freeze their eggs.

"Women are going to school, they're going into professions," said Dr. Gloria Richard-Davis, UAMS Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Fertility Services. "We're delaying childbearing and marriage and it may be mid 30s before we get around to getting married and having that person we want to have a child with."

Richard-Davis says freezing human eggs is increasing in popularity.

"If women have the opportunity to freeze when they're young, that tends to let some of the pressure off about the biological clock ticking and not having the opportunity to later have their own genetically-linked child," Richard-Davis said.

In 1970, about 1 in 100 first children were born to women 35 or older.

In 2006, it was about 1 in 12.

And the National Center for Health Statistics says the "dramatic increase in women having their first birth at the age of 35 years and over has played the largest role in the increased average age of first time mothers."

But having children older comes with risks.

"The egg quality and the integrity of the chromosomes in the egg is compromised as women age," Richard-Davis said.

So some women are turning to egg freezing to preserve their eggs at a younger age.

The process is similar to IVF treatments. Using the same fertility drugs, they stimulate as many eggs as they can safety mature, and then the eggs are retrieved and frozen.

"If you look at egg freezing, 1996 is when we started egg freezing but if you look at probably what are the first pregnancies related to frozen eggs, it's 2002, 2003," Richard-Davis said. "At that point that was reportable because it was so infrequently we were able to accomplish that."

Richard-Davis says now the egg freezing process has gone through a revolution and the success rate has increased, but is still limited.

"We probably are still under 4,000 cycles that have been done of frozen eggs, compared to freezing embryos where we're in over 100,000 cycles a year that are done," Richard-Davis said.

There are risks, including response to the medication and possible complications with egg retrieval, but Richard-Davis says those risks are low.

"The biggest risk is to your pocketbook," Richard-Davis said.

She says the cost can range from $8,000 to $14,000 per harvest.

So while the process is more effective at a younger age, the cost prevents many women from freezing their chances for children early.

"We're talking about young women who generally don't have the same resources as older women do, so the cost associated with doing this may limit access for younger women who would honestly have better prognosis or outcome with freezing eggs than women who are older," Richard-Davis explained.

Dr. Richard-Davis Average says the average age for women to have their eggs frozen is 31 to 32.

After the eggs are frozen, she said the age they're used is almost irrelevant as long as the woman is healthy and has a healthy uterus.

But even with a healthy woman, the success rate is low - about 15-20%.

Egg-insurance is still not a sure thing.