Pittsburgh doctors say more area women choosing to freeze eggs

PITTSBURGH — Lynn Malec’s love of children helped guide her career path.

“I'm a pediatrician. I always planned to have children,” Malec said.

But treatments from a breast cancer diagnosis when she was 29, combined with a busy professional life, threatened to take away the possibility of having children of her own.

“I'm pursuing a career that is very time-intense,” Malec said of her job at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “Women in careers that are similarly demanding -- having kids is something that they put off longer than [women did] a generation ago.”

So Malec said she decided to have her eggs frozen.

Dr. Serena Dovey heads the Fertility Preservation Program at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital.  She said she's noticed more women in Pittsburgh choosing to freeze their eggs.

“We start to see fertility start to decline for women starting in their early 30s and start to take a more steeper drop-off in the later 30s,” Dovey said.

Freezing fertilized eggs has been around for years but now doctors can preserve unfertilized eggs -- giving women, especially those who have not met Mr. Right, more options.

After receiving hormone treatments, women go in for a short procedure in which doctors remove and freeze their unfertilized eggs.

UPMC has done this procedure 26 times since July 2011. Dovey cautions that it is a good option but not a guarantee.

“This is an absolute backup plan, but I think it can be a good backup plan for a lot of women,” Dovey said

For Malec, the procedure gave her peace of mind.

“In the end, it's something I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it,” she said.

The procedure can be expensive. Until recently, egg freezing was considered experimental, so some insurance companies did not support it. Dovey said that is slowly changing.