Success rate of frozen eggs increasing

November 17, 2009 4:27:01 AM PST
Scientists have tried to freeze human eggs for more than 20 years, but the success rate has been only one to two percent. But now a new technique is showing more success. Medical reporter Christi Myers first told you in July about a Houston doctor testing the technique in a new study. A study which came just in time for one woman who learned she has cancer.

Meredith Stedham is single, 35 and recently learned she had breast cancer.

"I was going to be losing my independence, losing my health, losing my hair, be losing some body parts, and the one part of that that could potentially be the most difficult for me to recover from would be losing my fertility and my dream of mommyhood," said Stedham.

Then she went to Dr. Timothy Hickman, who is a Houston infertility specialist.

"Terrified and so worried I was gonna leave there thinking that the door to mommyhood was shut. Instead in our talk, I knew that there was hope," said Stedham.

That hope comes from a new and better way of freezing eggs. The success rate was two percent, but Hickman is part of a national study where he says the success rate is 75 percent.

"We've been trying to do this for years and years," said Dr. Hickman.

The problem is when eggs are frozen, ice crystals can form inside the egg which can cause it to shatter. But using the new technique, 100 percent of Ivonne Pena's frozen eggs survived.

"After it hit us what it really meant, we were kinda blown away by it. Still today when we try to explain to somebody what it means, they just say, 'OK,'" said Pena.

We watch as her frozen and thawed egg is injected with her husband's sperm. Two of the embryos created were implanted.

"I got to see my babies heart beat, my babies because there's two! It's amazing, it's just amazing!" said Pena.

She is pregnant with twins, the first pregnancy in Texas using frozen eggs.

"Someone who is about to go through chemotherapy and radiation where they're about to lose their ovarian function. We can retrieve these eggs and they'll have the possibility of having children later on," said Dr. Hickman.

It gives women a chance to preserve their fertility, just as men can freeze sperm, and couple can freeze embryos, but this avoids the ethical dilemmas of frozen embryos.

As for Stedham, she says young cancer patients like her, "may be scared I want to tell them there is hope. There is absolutely hope. You do not have to give up on that dream."

Even if Stedham doesn't use her eggs until her 40s, the eggs will have a chronological age of 35. Meredith's cancer was caught on her first mammogram. Her mother had breast cancer and she was advised to begin mammograms early. That advice saved her life, and she believes, her fertility.


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