SALT LAKE CITY — Egg freezing had long been labeled experimental, but in October the American Society for Reproductive Medicine declared that's no longer the case.
The first baby in Utah conceived from a frozen egg was actually delivered nearly three years ago. Kirk and Heather Larson thought it might be their last chance for getting pregnant. Now, they thank God and science for their family.
"At first the donor egg part was really kind of mind-blowing," Heather said. "We had never heard of anything like that. We didn't know if we were comfortable with it."
Premature ovarian failure left Heather unable to produce eggs.
"One day it just sank in to me and became clear to me that doing in vitro with a donor egg is not that much different than adoption. I'm just adopting an egg," she said.
However, Heather's first two attempts at in vitro fertilization failed. The Larsons began the adoption process. Then out of the blue they were offered a unique opportunity to participate in an experimental procedure at the Reproductive Care Center in Sandy using a frozen egg.
Embryologist Brett Reggio, Ph.D., director of the HCLD Laboratory said, "It is all about the cooling rate and the warming rate that leads to egg survival."
"There were some risks," Kirk Larson said. "They were minimal, but we are all for it because of our situation and saying, ‘You know what? This is an opportunity.' "
Freezing eggs is expected to boost banking of donated eggs, similar to sperm banking.
Dr. James Heiner from the Reproductive Care Center said, "They can choose from a wide repertoire of eggs we already have and pick the eggs they want, match eye color, hair color, physical characteristics."
Heather said, "The neat thing was they had specific eggs frozen from donors already and one of the donors was someone we had considered the first time."
Some women may also turn to egg freezing hoping to pause their biological clock.
"Women can preserve their own eggs for later use," Dr. Heiner said, "or maybe they aren't married and they want to wait until they get married."
But a frozen egg does not guarantee a baby. The new guidelines for egg freezing stress anyone considering it needs careful counseling about their age and odds of success if they want to later thaw those eggs.
"I think it is extremely important to be up front with patients so there are no surprises," Dr. Heiner said.
As science continues to offer more options in the fertility game, patients need to make sure they are well informed.
"There are options, and you can take the time to process it and feel good as you go," said Heather.
In vitro fertilization allowed Heather to give birth to a girl four months after the adoption gave them a baby boy.
"It all just happened at once," she said. "It was crazy. It was an exciting time. It was our time to have a family."
Kirk said, "For miracles and science to come together, we will take the combination of that recipe any day."
Contributing: Lori Prichard