Mount Pleasant's own Southeastern Fertility Center performed the state's first in-vitro fertilization and the 10th procedure in the nation in 1985.

Today, 25 years later, the clinic moves forward with a study on a new way to preserve a woman's eggs, drastically increasing the chances of conception later.

Medical director John

Schnorr explains it like this: Just as a soda can explode in the freezer, so can an egg. The largest cell in a woman's body, and made up of 60 percent water, it's delicate.

A newer procedure called vitrification flash-freezes the egg to keep that water from expanding and compromising the egg. Doctors at the Southeastern Fertility Center have continued to refine the process over the past two years.

Schnorr said the studies now use donor eggs, which come from younger women 20-30 years old. Older women can receive these eggs once thawed.

The success rate of vitrification nationwide is as high as 40 percent, according to Schnorr, whereas the success rate of traditional egg freezing comes in at around only 10 percent to 20 percent.

"If we can do it on healthy eggs, we can take it to the infertile population," he said.

Women have a few options for delaying pregnancy today, Schnorr explained. They can shut down ovaries temporarily, a procedure cancer patients sometimes choose during destructive treatment cycles. Women also can freeze blocks of ovarian tissue or freeze individual eggs or embryos.

Schnorr tells patients who are 35 or older that they can simply wait and face higher risks in getting pregnant, freeze an egg or order donor sperm and freeze the embryos for later use, which is the option with the highest success rate.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.