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Podcast: Can Women Put Motherhood on Ice?

11 July 2016
Appeared in BioNews 859

The cryopreservation (freezing or vitrification) of eggs offers great hope of being able to delay motherhood and beat the biological clock. Although women's fertility declines with age, more and more women are putting off having children. Can egg freezing deliver on its promise?

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's latest report on fertility trends and figures includes, for the first time, a section on egg freezing. It shows that the number of women freezing their eggs has increased substantially in the UK – especially since vitrification, which is thought to be more effective than slower freezing techniques, has become widely available – and that this figure continues to increase year on year. However, the proportion of frozen eggs that are being thawed and used in treatment remains low. In the past 15 years, fewer than 60 babies have been born to patients freezing and thawing their own eggs, whether for medical or non-medical reasons.

These figures may be modest but the debate has become big, especially when it comes to cryopreservation for non-medical reasons – so-called 'social egg freezing'. Some argue that the possibility of delaying motherhood means winning the battle for gender equality, while others argue the opposite. The likelihood of being able to conceive with thawed eggs is also fiercely debated, in light of the data that has emerged to date.

This podcast, produced by Sandy Starr, documents a debate on these questions entitled 'Can Women Put Motherhood on Ice?'. The debate was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET), the charity that publishes BioNews, and was supported by the Scottish Government.

Listen to the podcast using the player below, or alternatively download it by clicking here (.mp3 39.5MB).

0:00:00 Sarah Norcross: Introduction from the organisers
0:00:50 Professor Jane Norman: Introduction from the chair
0:02:15 Professor David Baird: A medical perspective
0:09:35 Dr Sarah Martins Da Silva: A medical perspective
0:17:20 Dr Ainsley Newson: An ethical perspective
0:25:20 Dr Angel Petropanagos: An ethical perspective
0:33:35 Questions and comments from the audience
1:25:35 Concluding remarks by the chair and organisers

A follow-up event, 'Frozen Assets? Preserving Sperm, Eggs and Embryos', is taking place in Edinburgh on Tuesday 25 October 2016. Find out more and book your place here.

29 June 2020 - by Emma Bunting 
The vitrification method of freezing and storing embryos is safe, but the length of time embryos are kept in storage may affect their chances of resulting in a pregnancy and successful birth...
10 April 2017 - by Annabel Slater 
The contradictions of the burgeoning egg freezing industry are lucidly demonstrated out in The Great Egg Freeze, a radio documentary by journalist Fi Glover...
3 April 2017 - by Jamie Rickman 
Can egg freezing be considered a feminist technology? Should we really be addressing the failures of a social fabric that requires women to preserve their fertility at all? This event was an exciting opening to an urgently needed discussion and is the first in a series of 'fertile conversations' that should be eagerly anticipated...
27 June 2016 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
The Progress Educational Trust held its first-ever debate in Scotland – on the subject of egg freezing – which proved a lively topic of debate...
16 May 2016 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
A woman believed to be 72 years old has given birth to a baby boy in India, following IVF treatment...
11 April 2016 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
A 55-year old woman from Boston, England, has become Britain's oldest mother of triplets...
4 April 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Pregnancy and live birth rates following IVF have continued to increase as the multiple-birth rate declines, according to the latest figures released by the HFEA...
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?'...
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