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Egg freezing should not be offered for 'social reasons', says ASRM

23 October 2007
Appeared in BioNews 430

US fertility doctors have issued new guidelines recommending that women should not be able to freeze their eggs if there are no health indications for doing so. Women who are worried about not finding the right partner or who deliberately delay having children should not be offered the service, as the procedure is still largely unproven and not an established medical practice, they say. Each frozen egg that is successfully thawed has only between a two and four per cent chance of producing a live birth.

Speaking on behalf of a committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) at its annual conference in Washington last week, the doctors said that it is unethical to offer the procedure to women who simply wanted to delay having children. Marc Fritz, an ASRM official and the head of the society's practice committee on the matter, said that they 'acknowledge that many women, very understandably, have an interest in this emerging technology, which might help them to achieve their reproductive goals', but added 'it is not an established medical practice'. The committee urged young women to consider all aspects of egg freezing carefully before moving forward with any plans to use it as part of their intended reproductive life. Speaking to a UK newspaper, Fritz commented that 'it is essential that [women] receive thorough counselling about the procedures, costs and risks that are involved, including that it is statistically unlikely that the majority will ever need or use their cryopreserved oocytes'.

The committee recommended that only women whose fertility may be damaged by treatment for cancer who go through early menopause should be offered egg freezing as a means of preserving their fertility, or those IVF patients who may have ethical objections to freezing surplus embryos. In the UK, egg freezing has only been legal since 2000, and only four babies have so far been born from previously-frozen eggs. The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said, however, that 185 women had eggs in frozen storage at the end of 2006, most of whom were cancer patients or those objecting to embryo freezing. However, three UK clinics offer egg freezing for 'social' reasons, two of which only started to do so last month.

Results of two studies on children born as a result of the use of frozen eggs were also presented at the ASRM's meeting. One set of results from US scientists used data from about 550 children conceived in this way and showed that the procedure does not carry an increased risk of causing genetic damage leading to congenital abnormalities. The study showed that only one per cent of the infants conceived and born from frozen eggs suffered from birth defects - a level comparable with that found in the general population. Similar results were shown by Italian scientists in a sample of 123 women.

Career women 'must not have eggs frozen to delay family'
The Times |  18 October 2007
Healthy women warned over egg freezing
New Scientist |  17 October 2007
Warning issued over egg freezing
BBC News Online |  17 October 2007
Women warned not to freeze their eggs
The Daily Telegraph |  20 October 2007
14 April 2014 - by Cait McDonagh 
A Crohn's disease patient is challenging a decision to refuse her funding for her eggs to be cryopreserved before she undergoes a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy...
6 September 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Researchers from Newcastle University have announced that they have a better understanding of 'why older women are more likely to produce abnormal eggs, increasing the risk of infertility...
22 September 2008 - by Dr Nataly Atalla 
The removal of anonymity in 2005 led to a reduction in the already-insufficient number of altruistic egg donors coming forward in the UK. This, combined with a strong trend towards parenthood at an older age, leads hundreds of British women to go abroad each year for treatment with donor eggs...
23 June 2008 - by Alison Cranage 
Research published last month in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online indicates that a new freezing technique to store human eggs is safe. The study, led by Dr Ri-Cheng Chian, of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, looked at children conceived using eggs frozen by vitrification, and showed that the...
3 September 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Healthy British women can now to choose to freeze their eggs, giving them the opportunity to delay motherhood without risking pregnancy complications, according to the Sunday Times. The new service, aimed at career women and those waiting for the right partner, will be launched nationwide next month...
30 October 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
By Antony Blackburn-Starza: A study presented at the annual American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference, which looked into the psychological motivations of women choosing to freeze their eggs for social reasons, showed that 40 per cent were prepared to be single mothers using their frozen eggs. Study leader Alan Copperman...
11 September 2006 - by Melanie Davies 
There is a steady and continuing trend towards later childbearing in all Western European countries. In England and Wales, the fertility rate for women in their thirties has now overtaken that for younger women. Over the last three decades, the average age of women having their first baby has risen...
11 September 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Two fertility experts have told the annual British Fertilisation Society (BFS) conference in Glasgow that women in their 30s should consider freezing their eggs if they wish to have children in the future. Dr Melanie Davis said the danger of decreased fertility and the 'well of suffering...
9 January 2006 - by BioNews 
A UK fertility expert has said that within ten years, a significant proportion of young British women will be cryopreserving their eggs in order to stave off infertility while delaying motherhood. Dr Simon Fishel, director of the Centre for Assisted Reproduction (CARE) in Nottingham, said at a media briefing at...
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