Why is the information on egg freezing so terrible?

Today I had my first experience editing a Wikipedia page!

Since the rise of egg freezing parties and the trend of tech companies paying for women to freeze their eggs, I have had many conversations with other young working women about what we should make of all this. Given my research in reproductive technologies, I know a little bit too much about the topic, and have found myself dispensing several myths about the process – namely, that it is any kind of guarantee.

Stumbling across the Wikipedia page for egg freezing (which is more formally called Oocyte cryopreservation) I realized that the site is in a pretty dire state. This message popped up at the top:

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So I decided to make a few changes. First, I added a link to an article posted by Our Bodies Ourselves that helps inform women about some of the risks involved with the procedure from a trusted women’s health perspective. Next, I added a link to the “egg donation” Wikipedia page in the “See also” section because there is a lot of good information there about the egg extraction process, which is the same whether you end up donating or freezing them.

After that, I moved on to bigger things.

In the “Success rates” section, the data provided was incredibly vague, just saying “approx. 30%.” So I added in the following paragraph to provide some more context:

In a 2013 meta-analysis of more than 2,200 cycles using frozen eggs, scientists found the probability of having a live birth after three cycles was 31.5 percent for women who froze their eggs at age 25, 25.9 percent at age 30, 19.3 percent at age 35, and 14.8 percent at age 40.

I also added a new section called “Social egg freezing,” the term used when healthy, fertile women opt into the procedure in order to “stop the biological clock” so they can focus on their career or wait until they meet the right partner. Before my addition, the only mention of non-medical egg freezing in the entire entry was the line, “There is a thriving industry marketing freezing eggs at an early age, and it may ensure a chance for a future pregnancy.” Given the current marketing push to young women to freeze their eggs, and the rapid expansion of this phenomenon, I wanted to add something more. Here’s what I wrote:

Social egg freezing is a term used to describe the use of egg-freezing to delay child-bearing in a non-medical context. There has been a proliferation in the marketing of this kind of egg freezing since October 2012 when the ASRM lifted the experimental label from the technology, despite their explicit warning against these uses given the risks assumed by the woman and the child.

There was another spike in interest in 2014 when it was revealed that Facebook and Apple were adding egg freezing as a benefit for their female employees. This announcement was controversial, with some women finding it useful or empowering, and others finding it alienating or misguided.

A string of “egg freezing parties” by third-party companies have also helped popularize the concept among young women.

I was also underwhelmed by the mention of the risks to women and children from the procedure (i.e. only one mention of a decreased risk) so I added a brief “Risks” section. Here’s what I wrote for that:

The risks involved with egg freezing for the women undergoing the procedure are the same as the risks for egg extraction for the purposes of IVF. These include: bleeding from the oocyte recovery procedure, reaction to the hormones used to induce hyperovulation (producing more than one egg), including ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and, rarely, liver failure. The long-term effects of egg extraction on women’s bodies have not been well studied.

There may also be some risks to any resulting child. These will include any of the risks associated with IVF, as well as potential unknown risks caused by long-term freezing, which are currently unknown. Expanded use of Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to inject a single sperm into a thawed egg could additionally be a cause for concern as this method has been associated with a higher rate of birth defects.

There are a lot of other articles I wanted to add, and additional points I wanted to make, but it’s hard to know what is “objective” enough for Wikipedia… What I do know is the US fertility industry is worth around $4 billion. I wonder how long these changes will stay around for…

(Oh, and my Wikipedia username is Technajess, because why not?)

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