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IVF availability linked to motherhood delay

1 September 2015
Appeared in BioNews 817

Access to IVF may serve as 'fertility insurance' for women, making them more inclined to delay motherhood and focus on their career, a study has suggested.

The study evaluated the impact of increased access to IVF on women's career investment in Israel. Using census data, it found that the country's national health insurance policy, which provides free access to IVF and other assisted reproduction technologies (ART), encouraged young women to marry later and pursue increased levels of education.

'The extended later-life fertility offered by this policy was responsible for a third of a year's increase in first-marriage age, a three percent increase in college completion and an almost four percent increase in graduate school completion,' the researchers said, presenting their findings at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Mannheim, Germany.

Israel's health insurance policy was first introduced in 1994 and made access to fertility treatment services freely available to citizens. Estimates indicate this resulted in increased use of ART with four percent of country's population currently born through IVF, compared to around one percent of live births in the USA.

The authors of the study – Naomi Gershoni of the Eitan Berglas School of Economics, Tel Aviv University, Israel and Dr Corinne Low of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA – suggest that the policy provided a level of insurance against age-related decline in fertility.

'By giving people a form of insurance against later life infertility, women who wanted to pursue a career were able to do so without having to worry as much about whether this would prevent them from having a family,' they noted.

Previous reports show that the number of single women using fertility clinics in the UK have tripled in the past decade, with an increase of 20 percent observed in one year (reported in BioNews 815).

Gershoni and Dr Low opine that the impact of access to ART on women's willingness to make career investments and delay starting a family may be comparable to the 1970s advent of the birth control pill which enabled women avoid pregnancies during their early twenties.

'Policies that protect against later life infertility can have far-reaching impact, beyond merely increasing actual usage of [ART],’ the authors report.

'This is especially relevant as companies consider funding for employees to freeze their eggs as well as other fertility-extending measures, and policy-makers consider the need for public funding of infertility treatments,' they added.

Apple and Facebook are two companies that have reportedly offered egg freezing as a job perk for their female workforce (reported in BioNews 776).

IVF availability ‘allows women to delay having babies and pursue careers’
The Guardian |  22 August 2015
Pressing Pause: How IVF access encourages young women to marry later and pursue careers
European Economic Association (press release) [pdf] |  23 August 2015
Study says women are relying on IVF to have children later in life, spending their 'fertile' years focusing on careers
Mail Online |  23 August 2015
The Impact of Extended Reproductive Time Horizons: Evidence from Israel’s Expansion of Access to IVF
Barcelona School of Graduate Economics [pdf] |  14 May 2015
6 June 2016 - by Dr Nolwenn Bühler 
At the same as news broke of an Indian couple in their 70s becoming parents for the first time, a group of researchers met to reflect on the postponement of childbirth and the role of biotechnology in the extension of fertility...
18 April 2016 - by James Brooks 
Primary school children should be given sex and fertility education to help them make informed family-planning choices in later life, fertility specialists in the UK have said...
4 April 2016 - by Professor Geeta Nargund 
Complete reproductive education, including regarding fertility issues, is the right of all our young people...
4 April 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
Declining fertility rates in the West are partially a consequence of heightened competition for social status, according to an anthropological study...
26 October 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
Will egg freezing enable women to take full reproductive control and beat the biological clock? Or is it just another way to tell women they can't have a career and a family? These were some of the questions tackled at PET's recent event 'Beating the Biological Clock: should you freeze your eggs?'...
24 August 2015 - by Dr Edgar Mocanu 
How easy is to tell a 25-year-old that she has no eggs and that she may never have a family using her own oocytes...
17 August 2015 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The number of single women using fertility clinics in the UK has tripled in the last decade and has risen by 20 percent in just one year, reports the Mail Online...
10 August 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
All this talk of the age a woman's fertility 'drops off a cliff' is just a distractor from the truth – this phenomenon of women finding themselves 'up against' the biological clock is a cultural one, not a biological one....
9 March 2015 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
I arrived with some bemusement at this one-hour debate, 'Does egg-freezing enable women to "have it all"', to Beyoncé playing out loudly to an excited lecture theatre...
18 November 2014 - by Siobhan Chan 
By 2050, most women will opt to conceive through IVF using cryopreserved eggs and sperm, meaning that sex will become 'purely recreational', an eminent scientist has claimed...
Great Option! ( - 04/09/2015)
There are women who do choose to have kids much later in life because they want to pursue their careers first and they should not be hindered by a ticking biological clock. But they do need to be aware, though, that the chances of success can sometimes be low, especially with frozen eggs. But it's great that they have this kind of option. I myself chose to try early on because of my lowered chances due to PCOS. I did have infertility issues (had to take conceiveeasy) but we were absolutely sure that we wanted to be parents. I think it is good that someday, when my daughter goes into the workforce, she does not have to be burdened by her biological clock and technology can allow her to 'conquer the world' first, if she decides to do so.
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