Egg freezing should not be relied upon to ensure genetic motherhood, leading fertility experts warn.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is often used when the prospect of conceiving naturally is reduced because the subject’s undergoing medical treatments such as chemotherapy. Women in their 30s and 40s are combatting their declining fertility rates by turning to ‘social’ egg freezing, The Guardian reports. Reluctant not to let their biological clock interrupt their career, women are allowing social factors such as finding a suitable partner dictate the right time to conceive.
Women should be warned there is no guarantee that this procedure will be effective. Success rates decline with an increase of age. “Women of 44 or older should be fully informed about the real chances of a live birth and counselled in favour of egg donation” says Dr Marta Devesa of the Hospital Universitari Quiron in Barcelona, Spain. Between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth dropped from 29% for women under the age of 35 to just 3% for women aged 43 to 44 (NHS Behind the Headlines).
In a move that puts women at the forefront of this decision, female employees at Facebook and Apple are offered free social egg freezing as part of their employment package. On the surface, this choice empowers women. Our biology hasn’t kept up with the ever changing demographic of society but medical science has. Is this choice really ours to grapple with? “Women should no longer be punished with childlessness for not finding a partner, nor should they feel pressured into a relationship because of their declining ovarian reserve” Dr Jara Ben Nagi from the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health and colleagues argue.
The news is celebrated when someone older has a baby, such as 55 year old actress Brigitte Nielson. But even if they are a celebrity it is not reported whether a baby was conceived via IVF and if so, how many failed rounds of IVF they had to endure or conversely, how much that baby cost them. The NHS warns that there are a number of health risks involved with the procedure and the medication often delivers headaches and hot flushes and frequently no baby.
The procedure can put a strain, physically, emotionally, and above all, financially. The NHS does not fund IVF for social reasons; Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, for example, cites “the lower success rate, [in which women] require 3 cycles of stimulation, at a cost of £15,000 and a storage fee of £200 – £400 annually.”
Another issue is that the procedure encourages women to have children later in life which poses a threat not only to the unborn baby, but to the mother herself. Once over the age of 30, the NHS classifies women as ‘geriatric’. Age increases the ‘medical complications’ associated with pregnancy, doctors at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London warn.
The option of having your eggs frozen won’t go away, and nor should it. Women spend their youth drastically avoiding pregnancy (because they can) but then resort to social egg freezing as the last form of protection over their right to a biological child. To make informed decisions surrounding family planning, women need to be educated with the accurate information. Perhaps the decision would be easier whilst they still have the option to freeze their younger, much fresher eggs?
To be an egg donor, please visit https://ivf.org.uk/treatments/donation-program/being-an-egg-donor/
The Lister Fertility Clinic The Lister Hospital Chelsea Bridge Road London SW1W 8RH