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Women freeze eggs for career reasons or to await Mr Right, studies find

28 June 2010
Appeared in BioNews 564

A large number of female university students say they would undergo egg freezing to allow time to build a career, a relationship, or become financially stable. However, older women who go through the procedure say it is because they want time to find the right man, researchers reported today at the conference for European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference (ESHRE).

UK researchers surveyed 98 medical students and 97 students of education and sports studies. The average age of the groups was 21. They gave the students general information about the procedure of egg freezing, and the costs involved (£3000 per attempt), and then asked if the students would consider having such a procedure. 80 per cent of the medical students hypothetically said yes, compared to 50 per cent of the education and sports studies group.

Lead researcher, Dr Srilatha Gorthi from the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine, said that although the majority of women currently requesting egg freezing are over 30, the most viable eggs are from women under 28, so it was important to assess this group's attitude to the procedure.

Dr Gorthi said it was crucial to give women all the facts about egg freezing: 'It's not an insurance policy, it can fail and it is relatively new. But the trend in delaying childbearing is unlikely to reverse, so it's up to them to decide'. She advocated educating women about the procedure at Universities or contraceptive clinics.

Clare Lewis-Jones, MBE, of the national charity Infertility Network UK commented: 'It is extremely important that people are aware of the effects of age on their fertility. Many women now choose to delay having children and although they should be supported in that choice, they need to be aware of the potential problems they may encounter when they do decide the time is right for motherhood'.

Reporting on a related study at the same conference, Dr Julie Nekkebroeck, a senior psychologist at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Belgium, found that not having found the right partner was the main reason given by older women when applying to have their eggs frozen. The average age of the 15 women studied was 38, with just over half having the procedure to take off the pressure to look for the right partner.

In this Belgium study, whilst half felt that the financial cost was a disadvantage, and a quarter considered the use of hormones a deterrent, all of them accepted that they needed to undergo treatment while they were still healthy and fertile.

'Because women have only just gained access to this efficient method of preserving their fertility, we believe that our results will add to the continuing debate about egg freezing for social reasons', said Dr Nekkebroeck.

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