Expanding the egg business

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky on February 15th, 2008

Ad now appearing in campus newspapers including UC Berkeley and Columbia

Press releases issued this week by two fertility companies bespeak changing - and troubling - dynamics in the growing commerce surrounding women's eggs.

In a February 11 statement, a Charlotte, NC fertility company called REACH announced an "urgent call for egg donors" and said that it is "eyeing far more aggressive means to recruit young women for egg donations in 2008." The press release is suffused with a tone of emergency about the "alarmingly widening gap between supply and demand" and the "spiraling" wait times "for older couples wanting to start families."

But there is no similar sense of urgency on the company's "What to Expect" web page for prospective egg donors. There, not a single risk or side effect is mentioned, though the known short-term risks are significant (and include, rarely, death) and the lack of data about long-term risks is notorious.

While the Charlotte fertility company seeks to grow its business via the now-traditional model of recruiting young women to provide eggs for people who are undergoing in vitro fertilization, emerging ventures are targeting a new demographic: fertile women who choose - or can be persuaded - to postpone childbearing until their 40s or beyond. Offers to freeze women's eggs for later use - after advancing a career, or meeting the partner of one's dreams - now litter the Internet, despite the experimental nature of egg-freezing technology.

One new egg-freezing venture is a partnership between a company called Extend Fertility and a Seattle fertility clinic. According to their joint press release, they will be offering "the first elective egg freezing service" in the Pacific Northwest. Unsurprisingly, Extend Fertility plays up the "freedom" and "empowerment" that putting eggs on ice offers to women, and plays down the risks of extracting them in the first place. "Egg harvesting is a proven, safe procedure," its website states.

Extend Fertility also minimizes the experimental status and highly uncertain outcomes of egg freezing, referring repeatedly to "breakthroughs" and offering "client testimonials" from women who have frozen their eggs (though not from any who have thawed and used them to make babies).

Extend Fertility's website declares that it "adher[es] to the strictest medical and ethical standards," and implies that its service is approved by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the fertility industry's trade and lobbying group. But it doesn't mention that ASRM recently concluded that while egg freezing may be appropriate for women undergoing chemotherapy that is likely to damage their eggs, it is an experimental technique and "should not be offered or marketed as a means to defer reproductive aging."

Is anyone out there looking for a case study in the need for regulation and oversight?

Previously on Biopolitical Times

Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Egg Retrieval, Marcy Darnovsky's Blog Posts, Reproductive Justice, Health & Rights


Add a Comment
  1. Comment by erestinger, Nov 28th, 2016 11:19pm

    There, not a single risk or side effect is mentioned.

  2. Comment by Iris Fowler, Jan 19th, 2009 8:52am

    Before you give Extend Fertility your money, please read this. Extend Fertility was founded at a time when the egg freezing procedure was in its early stages and was largely experimental. In 2009, however, most major urban hospitals have doctors who perform the procedures regularly and successfully. What Extend offered clients years ago and still offers today is a service that connects women with doctors who perform egg freezing and nurses and others who assist with questions, including medication issues.

    The problem that Extend has today is that their service is no longer relevant because so many doctors now successfully perform egg freezing procedures and they and their nurses are well-equipped to answer patient questions. In New York, for example, you can either use one of Extend's contracting providers, Robert Copperman, MD, and also pay thousands of dollars of Extend fees, or go to NYU Fertility Center (another hospital recognized as providing egg freezing services, and Extend's major competitor) and simply pay for your medical care (no Extend fee). NYU has doctors who specialize in egg freezing and nurses available 24 hours a day to answer questions and help with medication.

    Last year I chose not to use Extend and successfully froze eggs at NYU -- I spoke to a doctor or a nurse every day of my procedure, all my questions were answered and it was a terrific experience.

    Extend Fertility would like you to think it is a company established by women for women. When it comes down to it, however, Extend charges each their clients thousands of dollars for a service that doctors should and do perform. As my grandmother would say -- dont be a dope. Find a hospital and a doctor who does the procedure and save yourself those thousands of dollars that Extend Fertility will desperately try to convince you to fork over to them.



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