A new cutting-edge fertility treatment is making receiving donated eggs quicker, more inexpensive, and easier.
Doctors have been able to freeze and preserve sperm for decades, but the egg is the largest cell in the body and has the largest water content so freezing it was difficult.
In the past a woman whose ovaries don’t produce their own eggs only had one option for receiving donated eggs. She had to search for a donor, wait while that donor went through a screening process, and then wait while her donor’s cycle was synchronized to her own so a live donation could take place.
Over the past five years technology has increased so doctors are able to quickly freeze eggs and thaw them with good results.
Dr. Mark Johnson, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident who works for Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists (ARMS), said the new technology allows younger women to save their eggs if they want to have children later in life or in cases where a cancer treatment might lessen their chances of producing eggs later on. It also creates new opportunities for couples hoping to receive donated eggs.
The new technology has made it possible for doctors to create a bank of donated eggs, which can be shipped nation-wide and even internationally. Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists contribute and use eggs from a national group called Donor Egg Bank USA. Recipient couples can go online to www.donoreggbankusa.com, search for the traits they want, and find a donor in minutes. They can receive a donated egg in just a few months versus the six to eight months it took in the past. Because the new process takes much less time it also costs less.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine recently announced that egg freezing should no longer be considered experimental, signaling that frozen donor eggs may soon become a standard fertility treatment.
ARMS just began using the frozen eggs in July so they’ve only had a handful of clients take advantage of the process, but doctors are feeling encouraged.
“Once they make the decision to proceed with donor eggs, it’s an emotional decision,” Johnson said. “It’s time to move ahead. In this case we can help them because it’s a much more convenient process than it use to be. It’s much more rapid and less expensive. It helps them get to having children and building a family, which is what their goal is.”
Dr. Drew Moffitt of ARMS said the pregnancy rate they have seen since the summer is about 60 to 65 percent, which is on track with traditional methods.
“That was the big concern, was that the pregnancy rate wouldn’t be the same,” Moffitt said. “That’s one of the reasons why it was kept experimental until now. Now there are actual controlled studies showing the pregnancy rate is similar. The other question was safety. Now there’s early data looking at birth defects and babies born. Obviously, we don’t have the years of experience we do with the traditional methods. It will be years before we get that data.”
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