Freezing eggs: An option for future pregnancies?

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Freezing eggs: An option for future pregnancies?

Question

Is it possible to freeze a woman's eggs for future pregnancies?

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Answer

It's possible to freeze a woman's eggs for future use in fertility treatments — but it's quite difficult.

Freezing eggs may be an option for women who are facing cancer treatment that could lead to infertility. Freezing eggs may also be appealing for women who are planning to delay pregnancy or those who have concerns about freezing embryos that might never be used.

Freezing sperm is a relatively common practice for men who are concerned about future fertility. Excess embryos created in the process of in vitro fertilization often are frozen as well. Freezing eggs is more challenging, however. The large size of the egg cell — plus the fact that it's mainly water — complicates the freezing and thawing process. The key to success is managing the water content in the egg to prevent the formation of ice crystals, which can damage the egg.

Currently, eggs are frozen only in a few major centers that provide assisted reproductive technologies, and only a small number of live births from frozen eggs have been reported worldwide. Still, despite technical challenges and limited availability, freezing eggs may give the hope of restored fertility to women who have specific family planning issues.

Last Updated: 2008-08-07
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