Egg freezing up 41% in June-Sept 2020 vs. last year: NYU Langone

Dr. James Grifo, Program Director at NYU Langone Prelude Fertility Center and Chief Executive Physician at Inception Fertility, joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss the recent increase in egg freezing procedures during the pandmeic.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Very interesting feature segment here today for you folks, because more and more women are turning to freezing their eggs to safely extend plans to have children later in life. At the NYU Langone fertility practice, egg-freezing procedures jumped 41% this summer versus last summer. And for more on that, I want to bring in our next guest here. It's Dr. James Grifo, program director at NYU Langone Prelude Fertility Center and chief executive physician at Inception Fertility.

And, Dr. Grifo, I know that this is something that's been growing over the last couple of years. It's something I've covered in terms of the options out there. But 41% seems like a big jump. So what are you seeing in terms of the demand for these services? It is more because costs are coming down, or maybe more companies are offering to front the costs of these procedures?

DR. JAMES GRIFO: Well, costs aren't coming down, but they haven't changed in our 15 years of doing this. We haven't changed the price for it. But what's changed is insurance coverage has improved. I think now that it's no longer experimental, which we lost that label in around 2010. It's starting to catch on because now the first wave of patients are starting to have babies from it, and we're seeing that it works.

We had published an original paper way back in early 2000-- it was written in 2005, finally got published in 2010. And we showed that we get the same baby rate with frozen eggs as fresh IVF. So it's now caught on as an option.

I think the pandemic has made a big impact as well because people had a lot of free time on their hands working at home, and I think they kind of squeezed it in. So I think that had a factor. A lot of insurance coverage is taking place. So there's a number of factors, and I think it's just catching on because it's pretty clear. As women delay their childbearing to older ages, they're going to have a harder time getting pregnant. So many women are doing this as a fertility-preservation attempt to protect their family future.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, that's kind of the interesting thing to me because we talk about millennials waiting longer and longer to get married. I'm sure the next generation is going to be a similar phenomenon playing out here, longer to have kids. But of course, there are still biological laws to consider there. But on that front, it's kind of a catch-22 because you look for people who are in their peak fertility years, shall we say, that would be prime candidates to actually freeze their eggs, but probably don't start thinking about that until it begins to be too late. So how is that maybe one of the issues the industry has had to face in trying to get that awareness out?

DR. JAMES GRIFO: So when we first started doing this, the first five years of it, we had our first baby from it July 4, 2005, having spent four years in a mouse lab doing it on mice to make sure we could do it. And we did a free clinical trial on IVF patients and showed-- we had a 57% baby rate in a group of women who were mean age 31, which is the same results you get from IVF.

The initial patients who showed up were the older ones, so we just looked at a series of those patients, about 80 patients, who had frozen eggs and then used them during 2005 to 2009. And about a third of them had babies, but that's the baby rate you'd expect from women who are mean age of 38 and a 1/2. So female age is strictly the most important aspect to success. Younger is better. There's probably an age where it's too young to freeze eggs because you may never need them.

But I think it's more important that women know about their options, learn the science, and then use that to make good decisions about how they live their reproductive lives because this system wasn't designed for today. The system was designed 2 million years ago when the average age at first birth was 13. You know, Homo sapiens had just taken over the earth.

When I started in this field as a resident in 1984, the average age of first birth the United States was 19, so it went up about six years in those 2 million years. Well since then, last year in the United States, the average age of first birth was 26, which another seven years in 20 years. And in New York, I can tell you it's probably more like 36, so we've outgrown and out-evolved this system, and it doesn't work for today's modern life. So we're kind of the evolution of the lack of evolution.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and obviously, you put all those things together, not perhaps surprising to see that 41% jump in people taking you up on those services. But very interesting to see this all play out and that trend continue here. Dr. James Grifo, program director at NYU Langone Prelude Fertility Center. Appreciate you taking the time to join us. Very interesting stuff.