Waiting to get pregnant, or waiting to see what’s next after egg freezing
It seems that women are waiting longer to have children, but in 2013, only 677 women over 50 had babies. For a third of these women, it was their first child. While it is better to capitalize on young eggs to get pregnant, there has never been a better time to preserve fertility, thanks to a new technique for egg freezing.
Today’s women in their 20s and 30s can now elect to have a modified IVF cycle that involves drugs to stimulate egg production, then egg retrieval and finally egg freezing.
But what’s next? Can teenagers today realistically expect greater possibilities for becoming mothers later in life? After all, there is no guarantee that successfully frozen and thawed eggs will produce a baby one day.
Building on egg freezing technology, fertility preservation in 2035 and 2045
An article this month in Business Insider examined what’s in the pipeline for preserving female fertility. It’s hard to ignore a headline like this one: “3 revolutionary technologies that could make it possible for women to have babies at any age.”
Three new possibilities, experimental treatments, for life after egg freezing are mentioned in the article.
Removing ovarian tissue to harvest immature eggs and grow them in a lab. Researchers have achieved success with mice, and one day, women may have access to thousands of eggs that they would lose anyway to the natural selection of the dominant follicle each month.
Tapping into the power of the stem cell. Growing egg cells from the body’s basic cells (somatic cells) requires a middleman—the stem cell—to make it possible. We are close to achieving this medical milestone that has already proven successful with sperm cells in mice.
Gene editing. At TFC, we provide preimplantation genetic diagnosis to test and identify abnormalities in cells and embryos. Chinese scientists have recently demonstrated the ability to genetically modify human embryos. This is significant for women whose egg quality deteriorates with age, causing genetic mutations and chromosomal mix-ups.
Dr. Erika Munch, reproductive endocrinologist and lead physician at Texas Fertility Center San Antonio, agrees with Harvard stem-cell biologist George Daley: the gene editing study “is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale.”
Egg freezing preserves a woman’s reproductive potential, but does not alter the embryo in any way. If you are interested in learning more about fertility advances that improve your chances for starting a family, contact us at Texas Fertility Center.