I’m wondering: why is egg freezing so popular for young women now? Fertility treatments have been around for decades, so why didn’t my mom or older sister get to freeze their eggs?
You’re right that much of the medical technology used in egg freezing—like ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval—has been in use for decades. But before 2013, anyone who froze their eggs had to do so under an experimental protocol, because the procedure was fairly new and there wasn’t enough data available on it yet. That year, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a statement declaring there was enough scientific evidence to show that egg freezing should no longer be considered experimental.
Two exciting advances and studies influenced that decision:
First, a new freezing technology, called “vitrification,” was first applied to egg freezing in the late 1990s. Vitrification is a fast-freeze method that almost instantly transforms the eggs into a glass-like frozen state, reducing the likelihood that the fluid in the egg will form ice crystals, which could damage it. Multiple studies of egg freezing done via vitrification demonstrated it was much more successful than the older method, called “slow freeze.”
Equivalent pregnancy rates to “fresh” eggs
Secondly, a number of studies were done (using donor eggs) that allowed researchers to reliably determine that pregnancy rates were essentially the same whether the egg used was fertilized without freezing (AKA “fresh”) or frozen and thawed first.
The new technology in use and the promising research convinced ASRM that egg freezing was safe and effective. That’s why it’s available to this generation of women in their 20s and 30s—more than ever before.