New egg freezing process promises a better chance of conceiving on your terms
Reproductive technology may have just had its biggest bump since the 80's. But some healthy caution is advisable.
Extend Fertility in NYC is offering a promise. The way they freeze eggs all but guarantees your thawed eggs survive cryopreservation (egg survival is just one of the many hurdles science tries to jump during IVF). It's often a stressful ordeal where potential parents are constantly reminded to hold off on celebrating too soon. Success rates are between 15 to 40% per cycle in the most ideal circumstances.
How is Extend Fertility different from other outfits? Vitrification. In other words, they flash freeze eggs rendering them "glass-like". Their process is touted to "reduce the opportunity for damaging intercellular ice crystals" to form. They also apparently control their lab like no other: it's cleaner than all those other labs and kept at the temperature of a human body (egg freezers excluded of course). Something they say will "ensure a near 100 percent survival rate of oocytes" (an oocyte is an egg cell that will hopefully form an ovum). It's a big claim. And potentially controversial. IVF clinics thrive on offering women the best possible chances to conceive later in life. But that offering is unfortunately often trumped up.
The chair of the British Fertility Society, Adam Balen, worries that women in their late 30's and 40's are being given false hope. "Essentially, the younger a woman is when she has her eggs frozen the more likely they are to survive, fertilise and achieve a pregnancy, but even then there is no guarantee." Even with vitrification, he says. Vitrification, by the way, isn't that new to the IVF process. It's been recognized since about 2000. It's also really expensive – average prices to freeze eggs land around $10,000 to freeze 15 eggs (and then about $800 a year just to keep them frozen).
Extend Fertility, to be fair, offers you the bargain price of $4,990 for 12 eggs (12 thaw-survival guaranteed eggs that is). I'm not sure why they're more affordable but kudos to them if their claim is true. Especially for the comparable price point.
Good medical science seeks to give us as much autonomy over our earthly forms for as long as possible and that's promising. The human form is a marvel but it fails us over time, eventually becoming less and less, well, marvelous. Time is holding a cuckoo clock to all our heads. Yes, men too. Female fertility begins to drop sharply around 35. Men, contrary to popular belief, don't have reams of time either. Their chances of having their healthiest babies start dropping at 40. Sure, it's 5 year grace period but a far cry from the perception that they can sire a perfectly healthy child into their 70s. Also, who wants to manage a pubescent teen when they're 83? We can't all be Charlie Chaplin (he became a dad at 73).
There's no doubt cryopreservation offers women freezing their eggs (and men freezing their sperm) some autonomy over the robberies of time. And that autonomy can be empowering, letting us focus on things like careers, travel, and romantic relationships all the while knowing we have some hope on ice. It also lets the terminally ill and people with high risk jobs have kids posthumously. A lot of sick people freeze their sperm or eggs. So do many soldiers. That's pretty cool. Cryopreservation is a bonafide science win but it only offers the best possible outcome for hopeful parents, not a guarantee.
Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen