Dr. Grifo has been an advocate of Eggsurance since the beginning. He has become a friend and mentor to me over the years – especially when he talked me off the edge after learning I had only one healthy embryo.
Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology; Program Director of the NYU Fertility Center; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, NYU School of Medicine, Dr. Grifo is considered one of the top infertility specialists. For almost twenty years he has focused his research on blastocyst culture, egg freezing and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis(PGD), resulting in the first U.S. baby born from PGD.
Eggsurance Q & A with Dr. Grifo
Q. What do you think is the optimal age for women to freeze their eggs? Why?
A. This is a really good question. If a woman freezes her eggs too early there is always the possibility that she may get pregnant without needing to use her frozen eggs. However, if we look at IVF data there is an inflection point in pregnancy rates after the age of 35. Between the ages of 38 to 39 there is an even larger inflection point. Certainly over age 42 there is not much benefit to freezing your eggs. Typically, 41 and under is the limit.
Yet, I must stress that it very much depends upon the individual. If the parameters are good, a 39 year old, based on IVF data, has a 31% chance of pregnancy. Women also have the option of doing more than one egg freezing cycle which improves their overall chances of success
Also, I have found that there is a therapeutic value in egg freezing. Egg freezing offers women the possibility of future pregnancy – which can be empowering.
Q. Why is there such a lack of egg freezing statistics available?
A. To date, there is not a lot of data available as there have not been a lot of women who have come back to use their frozen eggs. Over the past 10 years, multiple clinics have reported their IVF successes after transfer of fertilized, thawed frozen oocytes.
Based on our data at NYU Fertility, we have frozen more than 2,500 cycles of eggs; and we currently average more than 500 cycles annually. So far, more than 250 patients have come back and used their frozen eggs to create embryos. As of July 1, 2015, 80 babies have been born, with 22 additional singleton pregnancies on the way. The eggs used for these cycles were harvested from women up to 42 years of age. Our pregnancy rates from egg thawing are on par with those seen in traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles.
Q. What percentage of eggs successfully survive the thawing process?
A. The thawed survival rate is in the 95% range. This is not the most important question though. The baby rate is the most important question. Women should ask their potential clinics what the pregnancy rates are from frozen eggs – this is the more critical question.
The baby rate is the most important question. Women should ask their potential clinics what the pregnancy rates are from frozen eggs – this is the more critical question.
Q. Is it preferable to freeze embryos rather than eggs?
A. It is preferable to freeze eggs. Embryos can be limiting; for example, embryos frozen with Mr. Wrong don’t make sense if you meet Mr. Right later.
Also, we are discovering that frozen embryos can bring up more psychological or emotional problems. An embryo involves both the egg and the sperm and therefore can be more complex. Additionally, the creation and disposition of human embryos produced solely for future use have raised ethical, legal and religious concerns. Therefore, for a variety of reasons, it is preferable to freeze eggs which leaves more options for future use.
Q. Will freezing eggs induce premature menopause or yield less eggs if a patient wants to become pregnant naturally?
A. Absolutely not: there is no evidence whatsoever that freezing eggs results in early menopause or yields less eggs later. In an IVF cycle where we stimulate and retrieve a batch of eggs you go through the same process – there is no evident effect on future fertility.
Q. Are babies born from frozen eggs as healthy as babies born from natural pregnancies?
A. Media reports peg the number of births from egg freezing at 1,500 approximately, but I believe that there have been many more babies born from frozen eggs. The numbers are probably in a couple thousands if you include donor eggs.
Studies suggest that there is no difference in the health of babies born from IVF compared to births from frozen eggs. A recent study of 936 infants born from frozen eggs yielded no increased risk of major congenital anomalies compared to babies born from natural pregnancies. Interestingly, the results reported a 1.2% incident of major congenital anomalies – well below the 3% rate of the general population. Furthermore, with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) most health problems are the result of multiple births. The bottom line is the early data is reassuring.