Shady Grove Fertility in Rockville recently helped form Donor Egg Bank USA, a collaboration of more than 100 fertility specialists across the country. Limited access to eggs has been one of the obstacles to the use of frozen eggs. Sperm banks usually are well-stocked because men produce so much semen. Women, on the other hand, produce a limited number of eggs.

The collaboration gives women access to potential donors beyond the region where they live, opening the door for more procedures. The eggs can be shipped overnight.

"I think [frozen eggs] will eventually revolutionize the way egg donation happens in the future," said Heidi Hayes, CEO of Donor Bank USA. "It gives patients more options."

Michael Levy, director of IVF at Shady Grove Fertility, said women are told that the use of frozen eggs is new, but many women are comfortable with trying the procedure.

"I haven't had anyone say they don't want to do this because it is too new," Levy said. "It is tried and tested."

The use of frozen eggs raises ethical issues similar to those that have come up with fresh-egg donation and sperm banks. Some worry that poor women will sell their eggs for income. Others wonder about couples who choose certain characteristics for their baby.

The use of egg freezing among younger women also highlights concerns with the way America treats family issues in the workplace, Darnovsky said.

"There are social policies and workplace policies that should be addressed," she said. "Women are delaying motherhood because they need to get careers started. If we had workplaces that were more enabling and friendly, women and men who wanted to start families could."

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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