Today is International Women’s Day and the occasion has been marked by a number of articles calling for equality of opportunity and reward for women in business and in the work place.
Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Expert Adrian Lower argues that egg freezing may have a bigger impact on the emancipation of women that the oral contraceptive pill did in the 1960’s.
The survival rates and potential pregnancy rates following egg freezing using the rapid freezing vitrification technique are such that women now have a very real chance of competing on an equal footing with men in those industries where their maximum potential and earning capacity occurs in the mid thirties, sadly coinciding with diminishing fertility and what has previously been regarded as the last chance to have a family. This coupled with the difficulties some career minded women have in establishing lasting relationships has meant that many women have had to choose between career and family in the past.
Providing they freeze eggs early enough, they can delay child birth by an important 5-10 years or have a higher chance of conceiving a second child if they are lucky enough to conceive spontaneously in their late 30’s or early 40’s.
Egg freezing is most successful when eggs are frozen before the age of 35, and probably even better before the age of 30. Unfortunately all too few women have had the foresight to freeze eggs at these young ages and egg freezing has earned an unfairly poor reputation because the majority of women freeze their eggs too late.
Although the survival rates of the eggs are better, when eggs are frozen at a younger age, fewer women will use their eggs because their focus changes or they may meet the man with whom they wish to raise a family before their fertility disappears. However if the real facts about fertility are appreciated most women would be happy to pay for egg freezing as an insurance policy that they hope they will never have to use. At a cost of £5-10,000, depending on how many cycles of stimulation are required, it puts the cost in the same bracket as a luxury holiday and rather less than the ultimate cost educating a child privately when they do conceive.
Egg Freezing – The facts
The earlier you freeze your eggs, the more chance they will survive freezing and the better the chance of a live birth, and a second or third child.
You need around 20 eggs to be frozen to have an 80% chance of at least one child when you decide to use them if you freeze between the ages of 30-34. Women freezing 20 eggs between 41 and 42 only have a 40% chance of a successful pregnancy with their eggs.
Egg freezing is safe, both for the woman, both in terms of procedure related complications and long term effects. The major risk factor for IVF – the Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – is virtually abolished by avoiding implantation at the time of collection with egg freezing. A recent study published in JAMA reported a 21 year follow up of 25,000 women who had undergone ovarian stimulation for IVF. Breast cancer rates were the same in the stimulated group as for the general population.
Egg freezing does not appear to be deleterious to the health of children. There is no increase in birth defects in children conceived using frozen-thawed eggs.