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Thursday, December 8, 2022

‘A lottery ticket, not a guarantee’: fertility experts on the rise of egg freezing

Hannah Devlin
The Guardian
Originally posted 11 NOV 22

Here is an excerpt:

This means that a woman who freezes eggs at the age of 30 boosts her chances of successful IVF at 40 years. But, according to Dr Zeynep Gurtin, a lecturer in women’s health at UCL, this concept has led to a false narrative that if you freeze your eggs “you’ll be fine”. “A lot of people who freeze their eggs don’t get pregnant,” Gurtin said.

First, only a fraction opt to use the eggs down the line – some get pregnant without IVF, others decide not to for a range of reasons. For those who go ahead, HFEA figures show that, as an average across all age groups, just 2% of all thawed eggs ended up as pregnancies and 0.7% resulted in live births in 2018. For each IVF cycle, this gives a 27% chance on average of a birth for those who froze their eggs before the age of 35 and a 13% for those who froze their eggs after this age. The most common age for egg freezing in the UK is 38 years old.

A recent analysis by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics found women often felt frustrated at having received insufficient information on success rates, but also reported feeling relief and a sense of empowerment.

Egg freezing, Gurtin suggested, should be viewed as “having a lottery ticket rather than having an insurance policy”.

“An insurance policy suggests you’ll definitely get a payout,” she said. “You’re just increasing your chances.”

As lottery tickets go, it is an expensive one. The average cost of having eggs collected and frozen is £3,350, with additional £500-£1,500 costs for medication and an ongoing expense of £125-£350 a year for storage. And clinics are not always upfront about the full extent of costs.

“In many cases, you’re going to spend a third more than the advertised price – and you’re spending that money for something that’s not an immediate benefit to you,” said Gurtin. “It’s a big gamble.”

“When people talk about egg freezing revolutionising women’s lives, you have to ask: how many can afford it?” she added.

Travelling abroad, where treatments may be cheaper, is an option but can be logistically problematic. “When it comes to repatriating eggs, sperm and embryos, it is possible, but it’s not always that straightforward,” said Sarris. “You need to follow a process, you don’t just send them with DHL.”