Frozen eggs may alter family planning

NEW YORK - It is a major advance in fertility treatment.

"We have our first delivery from a successfully frozen human egg," says Dr. Jamie Grifo at New York University Medical Center.

Who might benefit from egg freezing?

Women like 36-year-old Timian Nichols. She has a successful career in finance, and she is fiercely competitive in triathlon events. But she has one big problem.

"Meeting Mr. Right has been a struggle," she says. "I do want to have a family. And I want to do it with a partner. I don't want to be a single mom."

Dr. Nicole Noyce, who worked on the research, says women often start their quest to have a baby too late.

"I would say as a woman myself, that many women pursue a career that takes them well into their 30s before they are ready to have children," says Noyce. "And often by the time they are ready to have children, their eggs are no longer willing to perform for them."

This new procedure could allow women to stop the biological clock by freezing their unfertilized eggs. Researcher says that in addition to the one healthy birth, others are on the way.

"This kind of levels the playing field between men and women," explains Dr. Grifo, "because we can actually freeze eggs and women can delay childbearing until later in life and have pregnancy rates as if they were younger."

For years, doctors have frozen sperm and embryos, but not eggs.

The doctors harvest the eggs with a needle guided by ultrasound. The key is freezing and storing the eggs properly so they are not damaged.

No one knows how long the frozen eggs will stay viable, but doctors say there's every reason to assume that, like embryos, they'll last for many, many years.

More research will be needed to make egg freezing routine. But the doctors at NYU predict that because demand to stop the biological clock is so great, advances in research will happen quickly.