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Is egg freezing really a golden ticket to delaying parenthood?

The option for women to freeze their eggs is now regularly recommended by doctors, promoted in popular culture, and marketed to the masses via social media advertisements. But should we be wary of depending on its success?

A new world record was broken last month, with two twin babies born from human embryos frozen over 30 years ago.

The embryos had been stored inside liquid nitrogen at -128C back in 1992. It’s an amazing achievement for reproductive technology, one that breaks boundaries in the field of preserving human fertility.

While egg freezing isn’t new, having first emerged in the 80s, more people are opting for this service than ever before. Between 2009 and 2016, the number of American women freezing their eggs rose by 1000 percent. Requests for egg-freezing services soared further during the pandemic.

The practice has become so common that women have reported seeing advertisements for fertility clinics while casually scrolling their social media feeds.

But how successful is the process of egg freezing for having children?

Looking at the data

The decision to freeze eggs can be motivated by various factors. Many women are choosing to prioritise their careers first, citing the lack of a suitable partner, or want to balance their personal finances before embarking on a journey into parenthood.

Health complications related to reproduction are also a common motivation.

But although media and advertising narratives sell egg freezing as a ‘saving grace’ for women over 30, the success rates aren’t as high as we’d like to believe. And the differences between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ egg-freezing programs are not always clear-cut.

In fact, surveys published by Nuffield Health have shown that a majority women felt ‘frustrated’ about the lack of information provided to them regarding frozen egg to pregnancy success rates. This is problematic, as knowing the facts before diving into an expensive, invasive, and potentially traumatic process is important.

According to figures from HFEA, only 26 percent (1 in 5) women who completed egg retrievals before the age of 35 successfully became pregnant later on. That likelihood drops further to 13 percent for women who froze their eggs after turning 35.

It’s worth noting that, in the UK, the average age of egg retrieval and freezing is 38 years old. It’s also interesting that doctors report that many of their patients have ended up becoming pregnant naturally or decided not to become parents at all.

In light of all this, doctors have advised patients to treat egg freezing as having a ‘lottery ticket’ rather than an ‘insurance policy’ for parenthood. Going through the procedures (and paying for them) does not guarantee individuals will (or want to) have a child.

Though the chances of pregnancy are slightly increased, the sum of money spent throughout the process can leave many individuals financially worse off as fees mount up at every stage.

Injected hormones, egg collection, storage, and later rounds of IVF to produce a healthy embryo are costly when the number of rounds needed is unpredictable. As a result, many are automatically excluded from having a better chance at parenthood.


Accessibility

In the UK, egg-freezing services are not currently available for free on the NHS. Women having medical treatment that affects fertility are often the only exception.

In the US healthcare system, undergoing the process via fertility clinics is extremely expensive, often costing over $15,000. Avoiding these expenses has meant swathes of American women are travelling to Europe to freeze their eggs on the cheap.

There are online resources for those interested in weighing costs, outlining total price estimates per cycle. Currently, Spain, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Russia are the best places for egg freezing without having to fork out their entire savings.

Still, even in the cheapest regions, egg freezing can cost several thousand dollars. Considering this, a vast majority of people are being squeezed out of the possibility to heighten their chance of having a family later on in life.

Though many people experience life-changing positive success with egg freezing, it’s clear that the costs and benefits of egg freezing must be better outlined by doctors and clinics everywhere.

Like all things related to health and wellness, using major discretion during decision-making is vital – especially if the source is a sponsored Instagram post.

 

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