Not yet ready to start a family, Lauren froze her eggs at the age of 34. When she came back to use her eggs, she realized it wasn’t as easy as expected to get pregnant. After a few failed IVF cycles, she sought a second opinion from Dr. Singer and found success. Lauren is now the proud mom to a 5-year-old daughter.
Lauren and Dr. Singer discuss the power of egg freezing and how women should be well-informed regarding their fertility preservation options.
Host: What made you decide to become a reproductive endocrinologist?
Dr. Singer: Growing up, I was an only child to my father who was a quadriplegic. At age 18, he was shot in the army and when my mom met him as a volunteer nurse, they knew that they were going to struggle with fertility. After 2 long years of fertility treatment, they finally were able to conceive using intrauterine insemination (IUI) and medication. Interestingly enough, 45 years later, I’m using it myself with many of my patients. Essentially, we use the same medication my mother injected in her body. Taking that personal journey made me believe and know that I wanted to focus on this amazing field. I enjoy helping couples who are struggling with infertility to conceive, to have a family, and to complete their goals and objectives in this world. I still get excited with every positive fetal heartbeat I see on an ultrasound.
Host: Can you talk about the technological advances in egg freezing and how it’s changed over the years?
Dr. Singer: Since 2012, there have been multiple studies looking at the different technology that was used to freeze eggs and thaw eggs. Now with the technique called vitrification or “flash freeze,” 90 to 95 percent of eggs that are being frozen, thaw and survive and can be fertilized as good as fresh eggs. That completely changes the paradigm.
In 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) said that this was no longer experimental. Women should consider freezing their eggs if they do not have a partner, or if they’re not ready for whatever reason – financial or wanting to first achieve goals in their careers, for example. And the technology is such that you freeze your eggs at age 30, with each egg, you could have about 3 percent chance of a live birth. If you get 20 eggs in one egg retrieval, for example, that means about 60 percent chance of a baby. I’ve had multiple patients who have had more than one baby with one egg retrieval.
Host: How does age impact a woman’s fertility and ability to freeze eggs?
Dr. Singer: The younger you go through the egg freezing process, the better the outcome. We know that female fertility already begins to decline in the early 20s, but the pregnancy rate remains pretty high until early 30s. But then what happens in mid-30s, when you’re looking into freezing eggs, the decline really accelerates until the woman reaches about 45 and at that point, there’s a very small chance of conception using fertility treatment with her own eggs. At that point, the main option is using egg donation. In addition, the rate of miscarriage goes up significantly when you’re 35 and above.
You can be in overall good health, but the most important factor is age. Yes, smoking can affect your fertility, family history, ovarian surgery, radiation or chemo god forbid someone had to undergo that, has a negative impact, but when we look at the main factor, that has been clearly showed to be age, age, age.
In the next decade or so, what we need to emphasize, and I have two daughters of my own, is already in high school, mention the decline of egg quality, mention the option of freezing eggs when you’re in college or in your mid-20s rather than waiting until 35 or 39. When at that point, most patients will have to go through multiple egg retrievals to get the same outcome they could have had if they did one egg retrieval in their early 20s.
Host: So, you would tell listeners to educate daughters, nieces, anyone, to educate our girls and to let them know there are tremendous options, and to talk to them when they’re 16, 17, 18 years old?
Dr. Singer: Absolutely, I think that egg freezing is now what birth control has done in terms of empowering women back in the 60s and 70s. This is something that has to be educated and taught in schools. Give the patient information and they can choose to take that opportunity or not. Educate family and friends and let them know that age has an impact on egg quality. If you freeze eggs, you reduce your risk of having chromosomally abnormal pregnancies, you reduce your risk of miscarriages, increase the chance of having a baby all the way through age 50, which is otherwise unheard of. You can use your own frozen eggs from age 25 or 30 all the way through age 50 or 51 as long as you’re healthy. You can decide to transfer one embryo at a time instead of transferring two embryos, which many physicians will do if those eggs are retrieved from a 40-year-old, and reduce the risk of twins, reduce the risk of C-section. Then, you can come back every 2 years and transfer a single euploid embryo, a balanced embryo without any chromosomal abnormalities. You can build your family and be in the driver’s seat.
Whether we like that control or not, this technology is here and it’s here to stay. It’s empowering to many couples and individuals and we just need to educate them so they can choose how they would like to see their family grow, when and with whom.
Host: Why did you come to Shady Grove Fertility and what makes SGF so special?
Dr. Singer: SGF is one of the largest fertility centers in the nation that focuses on just fertility treatment. We have thirty-six locations ranging all the way from Florida to Maryland and New York now as of the last 3 months. We opened a brand-new IVF center here in Manhattan, and I’m joined by my partner, Dr. Anate Brauer, who’s amazing. She was my co-fellow at Cornell, and we’ve known each other for 15 years, we practice very similarly, and both had very good training.
We have over 60 physicians, and all top-notch physicians throughout the nation. The focus is to help the patient leave with a baby. SGF offers treatment options ranging from low-tech to egg freezing to IVF to donor egg to gestational carrier.
We have several financial programs that are very unique. When I spoke to SGF for the first time, I couldn’t believe this was even possible. When it comes to egg freezing, we have a program called Assure 20 or Assure 30. That program basically guarantees the patient who freezes eggs to have 20 or 30 mature eggs for one flat amount. And if she doesn’t get that in one retrieval or two retrievals, she can go through a third, fourth, fifth retrieval free of charge.
The second program when it comes to egg freezing, if a patient freezes eggs with us at SGF, we have a guarantee program for women returning to use those eggs – if you do not take home a baby from the eggs that were frozen with us, you will get your money back. So, you can use that money and put it toward a different route of getting pregnant.
The third unique program is the Shared Risk 100% Refund Program. A lot of patients come to us and they don’t have IVF coverage, or they went through a couple cycles and were unsuccessful. When they come to us for IVF and participate in the Shared Risk Program, they have to qualify, as there are certain criteria but then if they don’t get pregnant after six fresh cycles, they will receive their money back.
This is SGF recognizing that the financial aspect shouldn’t be the limiting factor for patients freezing eggs or trying to have a baby. It says a lot about the organization. We celebrated over 85,000 babies born in the last 25 years since SGF started in the early 90s. And we stand behind the product, behind retrieval, behind the lab, and behind the personal patient care that we provide.
The fourth unique program has to do with donor egg. If a couple comes in and goes through the egg donation process, we can recruit donors throughout our 36 locations and make it much more affordable. The Shared Donor Egg Program allows patients to split donated eggs with one or two other recipients, cutting costs down significantly without compromising pregnancy rates.
These are unique programs that basically show me and show the patient that we’re here for you.
Host: How is the perception of egg freezing changing?
Dr. Singer: It is already changing. I think discussions like we’re having today is another step in the right direction. When I started seeing patients and talking about egg freezing, they were even afraid to mention it to their parents. We were doing one or two cycles a month and now we’re doing dozens a week.
SGF offers complimentary seminars and webinars, we’re out in the community talking about egg freezing because no one else is as educated as the fertility doctors who are getting all of the data and reading the literature. We’re in a position of power to educate our patients, friends, and family to spread the word that this is not a shame to freeze eggs just because you haven’t met the right partner yet.
What Patients Are Saying
“Egg freezing gives me the opportunity to hold onto my own self interests. I am realistic that the journey will not be perfect, but I do believe it will be better than not trying at all. And this is a better chance to be able to do things my way, as I continue to progress through the natural aging process.” – Radell Peischler, Former Shady Grove Fertility Egg Freezing Patient.
“Egg freezing is an investment in the future and probably the best one I’ve ever made. I no longer have to worry about my biological clock ticking as I rebuild my life. No matter how old I am if or when I decide to have another child, my eggs will always be 36. As my eggs wait to be thawed one day, medicine continues to advance, and the statistics continue to improve. How lucky are women to have this gift?! As I prepare for one more cycle, the only regret I have is that I didn’t freeze my eggs sooner.” – Rachel, Former Shady Grove Fertility Egg Freezing Patient.
Looking for more information? Watch our Egg Freezing On-Demand Webinar, available for viewing at your convenience.
To learn more about egg freezing or to schedule an appointment, please contact the SGF New Patient Center at 1-877-411-9292 or complete this brief online form.