Couples struggling to have a baby have a new resource in the world of fertility: frozen egg banking.
Beneath a dense fog of liquid nitrogen, you'll find a fertility treatment breakthrough: frozen eggs.
While frozen embryos have long been used in fertility treatments, the use of frozen eggs has largely been considered experimental, until now.
"Now that we have the ability to bank eggs, we have the ability to-at any time that a donor is available-go ahead and collect and bank those eggs. And then any person anywhere in the world can identify through the website those eggs, have those eggs shipped to her and then use them to try to get pregnant," said Dr. Drew Moffitt, with Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists.
Dr. Moffitt is the co-medical director at Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists; the only fertility clinic in the state that partners with a national frozen egg database called Donor Egg Bank USA.
Not only do frozen eggs have the same success rate as fresh ones, but recipients can get them much more quickly, independent of geographic area, and select eggs based on a wide array of donor traits.
"Once I had a recipient say, 'You know we really like chess, is this person a good chess player?' So it's really whatever they want. Obviously the more specific they get, the longer it might take for them to find a donor that has those characteristics," said Moffitt.
Frozen egg banking also saves recipients thousands of dollars compared to fresh egg donation, which can cost more than $20,000.
"We have the ability to take the eggs that one donor provides and, if there's enough, supply them to multiple recipients at a much lower cost," said Moffitt.
The egg harvesting process starts with the donor having about 15 to 20 eggs removed. They're put into an incubator, then identified by a microscope and placed in a second incubator.
From there, the embryologist takes the egg and strips off the extra cells on the outside, essentially cleaning it, and then she freezes the egg immediately through a process called vitirfication.
The eggs are eventually taken to a huge liquid nitrogen tank and stored until they're requested by a recipient.
Donors and recipients remain anonymous to each other throughout the matching process.
While donors do receive some compensation, Moffit says most of them share their eggs simply because they want to help others.
Many women also use egg banking to help themselves, down the road.
"There are people who are-for whatever reason-are not ready to proceed with having a child, but they also know that time is marching on and so they want to store some eggs for the future," said Moffitt.
For women who are waiting to have a baby, and those who face reproductive challenges, this new technology can be viable choice for conceiving when the time is right.
Moffit says women typically use their frozen eggs within 5 to 10 years, but that they may be good forever.
He also notes that some insurance companies do help to cover the expense of this new technology.
Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists
Dr. Drew Moffit
1701 E. Thomas Rd., #101
Phoenix, AZ 85016