THE BLOG
02/02/2018 13:11 SAST | Updated 02/02/2018 13:11 SAST

Why Freezing Your Eggs Isn’t The ‘Sure Thing’ Some IVF Clinics Claim

Consider these implications...

The Washington Post via Getty Images

For many women it’s a tempting prospect. 

Put motherhood on ice and explore your desire to have children much later on in life, without having to worry about your biological clock scuppering your chances.

But is egg freezing really the ‘sure thing’ some IVF clinics claim? 

As a specialist in assisted reproduction it’s my duty to be honest with women about the realities of delaying having children.

Egg freezing has come a huge way in the last eight years and it’s now safe and can be effective - but it isn’t the ultimate reproductive insurance policy that some people may think. 

A new, three-year study by scientists at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York found women using eggs previously stored below zero have a significantly lower chance of becoming pregnant or having a live birth. 

The live birth rate from fresh eggs was 51.1 per cent against 39.7 per cent found from cryopreserved – or frozen – eggs.

The implications are far reaching, perhaps especially in the UK where the number of women opting to freeze their own eggs is soaring.

In 2001, just 29 women chose to freeze their eggs for later use. 

The latest figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) showed how in 2014, 816 opted to freeze their eggs - a 25% increase from the year before. 

We expect in the last three years this number will have grown again significantly.

But it’s the age of the women undergoing egg freezing which is causing me particular concern. 

Most of the women who come to see me, and indeed many other reproductive specialists, are in their mid to late 30s. 

Fertility begins to decline after the age of 30 and drops rapidly after the age of 35, with both the number and also the quality of eggs decreasing.

Socially we may feel as if we are not ready, but our biological clocks are still ticking whether we like it or not. 

My suggestion is women who want to have children later in life should be considering freezing their eggs a decade earlier - around the age of 25. 

Understandably, for many women in their 20s the prospect of having children seems very far off. 

Perhaps they haven’t found the right partner, maybe they want to focus on their career, or maybe they just aren’t in a position where they feel they can have a child.

These are all perfectly good reasons - and very important things to consider. 

But if you wait until you feel as if time is not on your side, you could well be right.

Pop singer Rita Ora, 27, recently revealed she had frozen her eggs. Lady Victoria Hervey also discussed freezing her eggs - at the age of 41.

The important thing I want to reiterate is it’s good to talk, and to think about fertility much earlier on.

In the UK one in six couples experience problems conceiving so it’s counterproductive to wait until you feel as if the time is exactly right to have children before considering your options. 

Of course, there are still many women into their 30s and 40s who want to go ahead with freezing their eggs, fully aware the odds are against them. 

Some women want to do whatever they can to increase their chances, even if it’s just by a slim amount. And I can’t blame them. 

But as specialists we need to be clear about the woman’s hopes and expectations. 

In my opinion, too much emphasis has been placed by some in the medical community on factors other than what is actually likely to lead to a successful pregnancy. This needs to change.