Women Who Want a Baby Later Are Freezing Their Eggs Now

Doctors see a growing trend of single women in their 30s freezing their eggs.

ByABC News via logo
November 12, 2009, 2:32 PM

Nov. 13, 2009— -- Melissa Brooks hears her biological clock ticking very loudly. So the 38-year-old divorcee from Dallas decided to fly to Denver to harvest her eggs in hopes of saving them to have children later in life.

"I want to be able to have a biological child with the man that I marry," Brooks said.

Brooks is part of a growing trend of women freezing their eggs before the quality of the eggs declines, according to Dr. William Schoolcraft, the director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver.

"Most of the patients are in their mid to late 30s," Schoolcraft said. "They recognize they're not going to have babies, still, for several years and they really want to maintain their eggs at the earliest possible stage."

The process of egg freezing, which costs between $10,000 and $15,000, on average, is happening in as many as 50 medical centers across the country.

Dr. Nicole Noyes, a professor at New York University School of Medicine, has specialized in the field of infertility since 1990 and helped more than 300 women freeze their eggs since 2003.

The technique is very precise. After extracting the eggs from a woman, usually 13 or 14, experts analyze them. Then the eggs, which are the size of a pencil point, have to be dehydrated using a specific recipe so they do not burst when they are frozen.

"If you put a can of soda in the freezer, it expands and gets ruined," Noyes said. "Well, the same thing can happen in an egg."

The eggs are stored in a cryopreservation straw and placed in a vat of liquid nitrogen.

Noyes said the eggs could last for decades, if not centuries, in the liquid nitrogen, although no woman would want to save them that long. Most eggs are used within a few years, and most centers do not allow women older than 50 to use the frozen eggs to have a baby.

There are no guarantees with the procedure. Noyes tells her patients they have about a 50 percent chance of getting pregnant per batch of frozen eggs.