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Newsflash: Technology Cannot Guarantee a Baby

The unregulated egg freezing industry is profitable for those involved, but prone to failure for those looking to get pregnant

(Photo: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc./Visuals Unlimited/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

As egg freezing has gained in popularity as a means for women to postpone motherhood until later in life, it's become a multi-billion industry. In the U.S., the procedure and drugs involved in harvesting cost upwards of $10,000 (plus $500 to $1,000 per year thereafter for storage fees). When it comes time to actually fertilize and implant one of those frozen eggs, however, the vast majority of women are met with disappointment, Wired reports. For 30-year-old women, 70 percent of frozen egg implantations fail. That figure jumps to 91 percent failure for those aged 40. In fact, to date, only 2,000 babies have been born using this method. 

Very few studies have been conducted on egg freezing, and the industry is unregulated in the U.S., Wired continues. So while one study of 900 babies born from frozen eggs found no higher rates of defects compared to babies that were fertilized naturally, according to USC Fertility, "it will take many years of follow-up to ensure that babies born from egg freezing technology have no higher rates of birth defects than those conceived through other means."

Egg freezing carries some serious health risks for women, too. There's the risk of developing a potentially deadly condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, Wired points out. And when these procedures fail to result in pregnancy, egg freezers have heightened incidence of depression and PTSD.

Until further studies are conducted, the unknowns surrounding egg freezing will continue to outnumber the knowns, Wired writes. And women who opt to try their luck at this method should be aware that they're entering a biological lottery whose chances of success are weighted against them. 

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