Until recently, if you weren’t yet ready to don the title of Mom but you were afraid your most fertile years were passing you by, you only had one option: give up some eggs, get your guy to give up some sperm, and have a doctor put them together in a Petri dish. The resulting embryos would be tossed in a freezer until you were ready to procreate. Unfortunately, freezing embryos left out two very important groups: single women and female cancer patients about to undergo chemo, a treatment that leaves many women, including young girls, sterile.
But now Main Line Fertility is leveling the playing field. Over the past five years, they’ve been conducing studies, racing with other IVF treatment facilities around the globe to successfully freeze eggs—a much harder task than freezing embryos. “An egg is the single largest cell in the body,” says Michael Glassner, MD, medical director and cofounder of MLF. “It has a lot of water content, and freezing caused excess crystallization. It was very hard to successfully freeze and then thaw an egg without damage so that the egg had the same viability as a frozen embryo.”
In fact, egg freezing is a task so daunting that currently fewer than 1,000 babies have been born from frozen eggs worldwide, with only 80 to 100 born in the US. “The need has been recognized for decades,” says Dr. Glassner. “But until this past year and a half, any prior attempts had resulted in failure.” Now, MLF has their first two pregnancies from frozen eggs in their second trimester—the first fertility center in the tri-state area to have success.
“We now have the ability to preserve eggs for a 15-year-old who might win her fight with cancer but lose the battle with her fertility, or help a social professional at the height of her career keep her ability to have genetic children,” says Dr. Glassner. “And now couples won’t have to face the dilemma of what to do with frozen embryos that they won’t use. In the past, they had to decide if they would dispose of them or not. Now, when undergoing IVF, we can create a few embryos that we’ll use and freeze the extra eggs that they’ll have the option of fertilizing later.”
The entire process, not including fertility drugs, costs about $10,000. "But we really work with patients if they are having trouble affording it," says Dr. Glassner, who also works closely with CHOP and a branch of the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help fund freezing for cancer patients. "There’s a lot of gratis care that’s done because of dire circumstances. We don’t want to turn someone away."
Main Line Fertility, 130 S. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 1000
Bryn Mawr, 610-527-0800, mainlinefertility.com