Back in May of 2017, we spoke with Dr. Lora Shahine of Pacific NW Fertility about fertility, in vitro fertilization, the stigma of miscarriage, and having hope.
The podcast was so popular, we returned to the clinic to talk with one of Dr. Shahine’s colleagues, Dr. Lorna Marshall, about another fertility preserving option: egg freezing. Once reserved for women about to undergo cancer treatments that would destroy their ovaries, egg freezing has become a popular way for healthy, younger women to delay pregnancy while pursuing a career.
Dr. Marshall is a practicing specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, serving the Seattle community for over 25 years. In this first part of our two-part podcast, Dr. Marshall spoke with us about the history and science behind freezing eggs. We’ve been freezing sperm for ages; why did it take so long to learn to freeze an egg, and what are the risks?
For the answer to that and other questions, listen up:
How does one become a reproductive endocrinologist/fertility specialist? For Dr. Marshall, her medical career paralleled the history of IVF, so it must have been destiny, she says. She shares her story of how her interest in fertility medicine grew as the science, ethics, and practice got more and more fascinating.
At first, fertility was uninteresting to her, Dr. Marshall says. The success rates were low, there wasn’t much doctors could do to help. Then IVF started to get really interesting…
Have patients changed over time? Not so much, Dr. Marshall says; they’re still “everyday folks.” But formerly couples came in only after they’d been trying for a very long time. Nowadays, couples are willing to try a more complicated route sooner. The big barrier to fertility treatments hasn’t changed: money.
In the past, Dr. Marshall says, fertilization specialists dealt almost entirely with couples who were infertile. Now, they have a whole separate clientele of women and couples who are looking for ways to postpone pregnancy.
We were curious to know what a woman who elects for fertility preservation looks like. Being able to elect for egg freezing is very new, Dr. Marshall says, only around since 2012. So we’re still discovering what women might want this option.
So what makes eggs so darn hard to freeze, compared to an embryo? Dr. Marshall explains how, previously, egg freezing was reserved for women who had received a cancer diagnosis and would likely be infertile after treatment. Such a small audience meant there wasn’t much opportunity to learn, and that slowed advancement of techniques.
Professional societies considered freezing eggs “experimental” until January 2013, finally lifting the designation because enough successes had been recorded. Four years later, egg freezing is still not advised as an elective procedure, just for cancer patients or for other special circumstances.
For anyone who might feel regret for not having chosen an egg-freezing option when they were younger, Dr. Marshall is quick to reassure them that it would not have been possible. “No regrets,” she says. All those fortunate celebrities getting pregnant at 50 probably aren’t doing it with their own eggs.
In part 2 of this conversation, Jill and Dr. Marshall talk more about the women who are electing to freeze their eggs as a way of postponing – but still having the option of – pregnancy and family. Hear about global corporations offering egg freezing as a “benefit” to female employees and how society’s approach to fertility is changing.
If you’re looking for more information about fertility and options for family planning, you can visit Dr. Marshall and her colleagues at Pacific NW Fertility.
Would you consider freezing your eggs in order to postpone pregnancy? Why or why not? We’d love to hear your thoughts; please share in the comments section of email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know on genneve’s Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, genneve’s closed Facebook group.