In Intelligent Life magazine, Helen Joyce discusses “social egg-banking” and the IVF revolution to come:
I believe the true IVF revolution is still to come. Soon, IVF may be better than natural conception for many, perhaps most, couples, not just those who can’t make babies the usual way and the fewer still who know they carry genetic diseases.
The first steps to this reproductive nirvana are already being taken by a few brave, or foolhardy, souls. They are freezing (or, strictly speaking, “vitrifying”) their eggs in order to keep them fresh till the right man comes along. Men have been able to freeze and bank their sperm for decades, for example when facing cancer treatment that risks leaving them infertile, and couples can store surplus embryos produced during IVF. But eggs are a tougher challenge. Sperm are small, and of the tens of millions in a single ejaculation plenty will survive freezing and thawing; a couple of days after fertilisation, an embryo will consist of several cells, and even if a few don’t survive the trauma, the embryo itself often will. Eggs, though, are single cells—so they have no built-in redundancy—and big (many times larger than the average human cell), so they are full of water that can form ice crystals and destroy the delicate structures inside them.