Latest figures from the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), shows a 240% increase in the number of egg freezing cycles. To put that in perspective, there were 569 UK women who chose to undergo the procedure in 2013, which rose to 2,000 in 2018.
Freezing allows women to store their younger eggs. They can then be used in IVF when they are ready for a family. There are many factors that drive this decision:
- Preserving eggs at a younger age for better quality and better chance of successful IVF
- Medical reasons: If a woman needs to undergo cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, then freezing eggs preserves her fertility for family options after treatment
- Career reasons: Many companies now offer egg freezing as an employee benefit, so women can focus on their career, safe in the knowledge her younger eggs are waiting
- Financial reasons: Waiting for greater financial security before starting a family
- Waiting to find the right partner!
Freezing eggs as a back up plan
Fertility campaigners in the UK say that women now see social egg freezing as a valid reproductive choice. The Progress Educational Trust is a UK charity that aims to improve the choices for people affected by infertility. Sally Norcross, Chairperson said, “The women we have spoken to value motherhood. Having a family is really important to them. So, they are choosing to freeze their eggs as a back-up plan in case they need them in the future. Of course, they may not need them as they may find a partner and get pregnant the old-fashioned way. I think there is a greater awareness of egg freezing as a reproductive choice. Also, women are aware of the biological clock and are choosing to invest in their future reproductive options.”
Advances in technology
One of the key reasons for the increase is likely to be improvements in technology. Through Vitrification, the fast freezing of eggs and embryos greater success is seen than the traditional slow freeze method. Dr. Jane Stewart, a prominent UK Fertility Specialist, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said, “2013-18 was a time when Vitrification became a much more reliable technique and surpassed slow freezing, especially for eggs.”
The HFEA report also reveals that technical improvements have increased the chances of a live birth for all patients under 43 years of age. However, higher birth rates were seen among women over the age of 40 when they used donor eggs in treatment. This suggests that freezing eggs from an earlier age will improve chances of a live birth via IVF later on.