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If you could put your biological clock on hold, would you?

June 28, 2010 |  1:35 pm

Now that scientists have found a way to reliably freeze – and later thaw – human eggs, a growing number of women see the procedure as a way to buy them more time before starting a family. The procedure isn’t without risks – women who go through with the egg-harvesting process could find themselves suffering from ovarian hyperstimulation, bleeding, infection or worse. Nor is it cheap – prices can top $12,000 per cycle.

frozen eggs fertility treatment What would make women want to freeze their eggs anyway? Researchers offered some answers Monday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, currently underway in Rome.

Julie Nekkebroeck, a senior psychologist at the Center for Reproductive Medicine at University Hospital Brussels in Belgium, interviewed 15 women who had begun the process of freezing their own eggs. Their average age was 38, and they were “highly educated” and “financially secure,” according to the conference's description of her research.

Eight of the women said they wanted more time to find Mr. Right; four others said that once they found Mr. Right, they didn’t want to have to put him on the spot right away by asking about his plans for future fatherhood. In addition, five women saw egg-freezing as an insurance policy against infertility later in life. On average, these women estimated that they would try to get pregnant at age 43.

Meanwhile, Srilatha Gorthi of the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine in England put the question to younger women (average age 21) for whom the idea of egg freezing was more theoretical.

Among 98 hard-charging medical students, 80% said the idea appealed to them. They saw the technology as a way to focus on their careers during their prime child-bearing years. Among 97 students majoring in education and sports studies, only 40% were open to the idea of freezing their eggs. For these women, the primary motivation for delaying pregnancy was to achieve financial independence.

You can read the BBC's coverage of their presentations here.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: These eggs at the USC fertility lab were frozen with liquid nitrogen. Credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times