The Pacific Fertility Egg Bank Celebrates its One Year Anniversary!
On August 1st, 2012 Pacific Fertility Center opened the Pacific Fertility Egg Bank (PFEB), the first freestanding donor egg bank in northern California. The Pacific Fertility Egg Bank concept burgeoned in 2006 as a result of advancements in egg freezing technology. After much innovative work in the PFC Laboratory perfecting the freezing technique of 'vitrification', our first recipients of frozen donor eggs were pregnant in 2007 and delivered in 2008. Over the ensuing four years, additional research and refinement of laboratory techniques continued, resulting in the development of the Pacific Fertility Egg Bank.
Over this past year, we have been able to help 31 patients/couples achieve their dream of starting or expanding their family with the use of frozen donor eggs. A traditional 'fresh' donor cycle requires coordination and synchronization with the chosen donor, and treatment from start-to-finish can take as long as 3-6 months. For patients who want to get pregnant soon after they have made the emotional transition to using an egg donor, 3 to 6 months can feel like eternity. With the PFEB, the eggs are already frozen and ready to be chosen - eliminating the need to coordinate and synchronize with the donor! Patients who choose to cycle through the PFEB will experience quicker treatment times, and can schedule their treatment based on their personal schedule. On average, PFEB patients complete their treatment cycle within 2 months.
For many patients, the option of a 'fresh' cycle can be an unattainable financial reach, while the option of a cycle with frozen eggs from the Pacific Fertility Egg Bank is much more affordable (fresh: $35K-$45K vs. frozen: $22K). In a fresh donor cycle, all the eggs obtained from the stimulation cycle are fertilized with the sperm of the recipient, and all resulting embryos belong to the recipient-- usually 2 to 8 well-developed day-5 embryos (blastocysts). A fresh cycle is a best option for patients who may want to freeze extra embryos for genetic siblings, or who need to do genetic testing on their embryos (to exclude embryos with a known genetic disorder), or who have very poor sperm or a uterine abnormality.
In a PFEB cycle, egg donors have undergone an IVF cycle, and all obtained eggs are frozen and ready to be chosen by a recipient. Once chosen, the laboratory will thaw a predetermined number of eggs (usually about 6) and will fertilize those eggs with the recipient's sperm. The PFEB provides a guarantee of 2 well developed day-3 embryos for a transfer, but is not designed to necessarily have extra embryos for freezing. Occasionally patients doing a PFEB cycle will have extra embryo(s) to freeze, but this cannot be an expectation. This difference in the total number of expected embryos is what leads to the fee difference between these 2 options for pregnancy using donor eggs.
Our Pacific Fertility Egg Bank team has worked very hard this year to recruit and carefully screen young women as egg donors for the PFEB. Our medical and educational criteria are quite stringent. Eligible donors undergo an extensive interview with our Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), do a standardized personality test (PAI), medical laboratory testing, and undergo a genetic family history with a genetic counselor and recommended genetic testing based on ethnic background. These criteria optimize for the option of frozen eggs from extensively screened egg-donors to best serve our diverse patient clientele. Over this past year, we have done IVF cycles and frozen oocytes from 20 donors, providing a broad choice of donor eggs to select from.
Lastly, success is measured by successful pregnancies. We can say with confidence that the success rates for pregnancies using frozen/thawed donor eggs is the same as pregnancies using fresh donor eggs. Using our most recently refined thawing techniques, the pregnancy rate is 75% per transfer, and the clinical pregnancy rate (ultrasound with heart beat at 7-9 weeks gestation) is 63% per transfer. These are fabulous rates, and are a true testament to the collaborative work between the clinical team at PFC and the laboratory team at PFC! Meticulous attention is paid to the donor screening, donor stimulation protocol and stimulation process, the egg freezing and thawing techniques, supportive laboratory environment for embryo development, and finally the uterine preparation for the recipient. All these components contribute key pieces to the overall success of this new program: The Pacific Fertility Egg Bank.
We are proud to be celebrating our one year anniversary, but most importantly proud to be able to offer our patients a viable and successful option for pregnancies using donor eggs. This option already has helped numerous patients achieve their goal of a family, and we look forward to serving more families, as well as the continued growth and success of the Pacific Fertility Egg Bank.
- Isabelle Ryan, M.D.