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Doctors warn of ignoring downsides of social egg freezing

13 August 2018
Appeared in BioNews 962

Women who freeze their eggs for social reasons need to be better informed about the potential difficulties of the process, experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have warned.

As part of a debate published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, published by the college, leading gynaecologists suggested that British women who choose to freeze their eggs for social reasons rather than medical necessity should be warned about the low-success rates and high costs. 

'Success rates for egg freezing have improved significantly in recent years so offer an opportunity for women to freeze their eggs for social reasons if they're not ready to have children yet,' said Professor Adam Balen, a spokesman for the college and a consultant in reproductive medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. 'However, it must be stressed that egg freezing does not guarantee a baby in the future.'

The present UK storage limit for storing eggs frozen for social reasons is 10 years (see BioNews 960). The authors of the article expressed concern about the fact that most British women using egg-freezing services for social reasons are over the age of 35. They pointed to research suggesting that 8.2 percent of eggs frozen from women under 36 years old are able to result in live births, but this drops to 3.3 percent in women aged between 36 and 39. 

As a result, for women in their late thirties more eggs are needed to have a good chance of getting pregnant. The costs of this can run into many thousands of pounds for multiple rounds of ovarian stimulation, annual egg storage fees and future fertility treatments.

'Egg freezing should be available to single women in their late thirties who accept the high costs and low successes, but these women and their partners must be provided with accurate and balanced information on the safety and likelihood of success,' argued Dr Timothy Bracewell-Milnes from Imperial College London and his co-authors.

Earlier this month, a leading IVF specialist publicly called for the government to fund egg-freezing for all British women between the ages of 30-35. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, consultant gynaecologist Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create fertility clinics, argued that the state has a responsibility to support women who wish to delay childbirth until later in life. 

'We don't want to deny a whole generation of women from freezing because it's too expensive,' said Professor Nargund. 

Professor Balen disagreed, saying: 'I don’t think we're quite there yet to call on the Government to fund social egg freezing. If the NHS were to fund the recommended amount of IVF for everyone, rather than funding one or no cycles, they would have a decent chance of having a baby.'

IVF expert says we must let women freeze their eggs for free on the NHS to avert a national 'fertility crisis'
Daily Mail |  5 August 2018
RCOG suggests caution over social egg freezing
Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology |  8 August 2018
Women need more realistic data on egg-freezing success, say experts
The Guardian |  8 August 2018
Women 'need to know egg freezing risk'
BBC |  8 August 2018
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