Women warned not to freeze their eggs for social reasons by William Fletcher

Women warned not to freeze their eggs for social reasons

William Fletcher
Progress Educational Trust
09 February 2009

The UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the British Fertility Society have released a joint statement expressing serious concerns about women who freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons such as pursuit of their career. The success rate for pregnancies involving eggs that were frozen is very low and babies conceived in this manner may be less healthy than those from fresh eggs.

'The image that's portrayed is that a woman in her late 20s or early 30s can establish a relationship 10 or 15 years later and then take the eggs out of the freezer, fertilize them with the partner's sperm and have the baby', says Professor Bill Ledger, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sheffield University and a member of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA). 'The chance of a baby from a frozen egg with vitrification is less than 6 per cent per egg. By doing the egg freezing for social reasons, they are taking a huge gamble for their future', he added.

As well as low success rates Professor Ledger pointed out that babies that are born from frozen eggs could be less healthy than those conceived from fresh eggs and warned that: 'We should be very careful about performing medical procedures on healthy people'. He believes that is ethically questionable for women to freeze their eggs purely for 'lifestyle reasons' but added that it was legitimate, for example, for a young woman with cancer to have her eggs frozen before chemotherapy seriously damaged her potential to bear children.

The draft regulations to implement the Human Fertility and Embryology Act, as amended in relation to the storage of gametes, state that gametes (oocytes in this scenario) can only be stored for ten years. Unless during that period the person for whom the eggs are stored has, or is likely to develop, significant and premature infertility, this period cannot be extended. Egg freezing beyond this time at any of the 41 infertility clinics in the UK where this service is offered is therefore excluded for any non-medical reason.

Despite this time limit, 33 women chose to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons in 2006, according to official figures from the HFEA. However, this figure more than doubled to 78 in 2007, even though the procedure is expensive at a cost of about £5,000.

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