RCOG suggests caution over social egg freezing

Egg freezing can benefit women, particularly those who may face infertility for medical reasons, such as chemotherapy treatment for certain cancers. But the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests caution for women who wish to freeze their eggs for social reasons.

The procedure does not guarantee success and there are high private treatment costs, as well as the side effects associated with egg freezing and IVF treatment, says the RCOG. But with improving success rates over the years, egg freezing does offer some women the opportunity to delay pregnancy until later in life.

In an argument for social egg freezing, Dr Jara Ben Nagi from the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health and colleagues argue that it can extend the window of opportunity for single women to find the right partner.

They recommend “extensive fertility and preconception counselling, including risk of age related complications during pregnancy and birth, as well as future unsuccessful treatment.”

Meanwhile, Dr Timothy Bracewell-Milnes from Imperial College London and co-authors from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London warn that the majority of women are taking measures to preserve their fertility too late, as a ‘last ditch effort’, instead of a planned and informed choice in their early to mid-thirties.

Research has shown young people are not aware of the natural limits of female fertility and significantly overestimate the success rates of assisted reproductive technologies, they argue.

Because of lower success rates with increasing age, women in their late thirties would need approximately 30 eggs to have a good chance of achieving pregnancy. These women would, therefore, require on average three cycles of ovarian stimulation to produce enough eggs, at a cost of around £15,000 overall.

They argue “egg freezing should be available to single women in their late thirties who accept the high costs and low successes, but these women and their partners must be provided with accurate and balanced information on the safety and likelihood of success.”

Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“While women should be supported in their choices, they must be informed about the relatively low success rates, high costs and side effects associated with egg freezing and IVF treatment. If a woman does decide to freeze her eggs for social reasons, she should have counselling with a reproductive specialist and choose a clinic that has plenty of experience.