With improved awareness and advancements in egg freezing technology, coupled with fertility centers providing competitive rates, one would assume that oocyte cryopreservation would be quite popular. But this may not be the case, according to an Internet survey performed in the United Kingdom and Denmark, which found that though most women like the idea of freezing their eggs for future reproductive use, only one in five women would actually go for it.
"Until very recently, no options for preserving fertility in order to delay childbearing existed," Dr. Camille Lallemant of the Complete Fertility Centre of Princess Anne Hospital in the UK explained in a press release. "Now, vitrification has revolutionised oocyte freezing and made it effective and convenient. But we are still not clear to what extent women are aware of its possibilities and limitations, or of attitudes towards its use or the circumstances in which they might consider it. Our survey tried to answer these questions."
The survey conducted between September 2012 and September 2013 was in the form of an online questionnaire, which was answered anonymously by 973 women with an average age of 31 years. Results, reported at the ESHRE Annual Meeting in Munich by Lallemant, showed that 83 percent of those surveyed were aware of it, 99.4 percent considered it acceptable for medical reasons, such as preserving it ahead of a cancer treatment, while 89.1 percent felt oocyte preservation was acceptable, since it gives them a delayed fertility planning option if their current social or economic situations are not conducive to start a family.
The reasons associated for freezing eggs were not having a partner by the age of 35, being under 35 years old, childlessness, and a history of infertility. "In terms of personal circumstances, career aspirations remain less important than the biological clock and having found a partner by age 35" Lallemant explained.
The survey suggests that 19 percent of the respondents who were actively considering egg freezing for themselves were not as much concerned about the risks of the procedure as its success. The costs involved and also the safety of this procedure for future children was not a major concern.
Social egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation as it is formally called, involves extracting eggs from the ovaries and cryopreserving them. When a woman is ready to use them, the eggs are thawed and injected with sperm and then transferred into the woman’s uterus.
For a woman to get pregnant by this method, she should be 35 years or younger and should have at least 20 eggs frozen, which will increase her chances of getting pregnant. While the procedure certainly reduces the stress on a woman’s biological clock, it is also useful for women undergoing treatment for cancers.
In the U.S., an estimated 5,000 women are using the oocyte freezing technology. Although several clinics in UK and Denmark have reported an increasing interest in the procedure, in Britain the use of frozen eggs is described by the regulatory authority as a "relatively new development," with no more than 20 live births reported by December 2012.
"While both our clinics in Southampton and Copenhagen receive many enquiries about options for fertility planning, few women as yet have actually chosen oocyte freezing for this purpose. We are, however, seeing growing interest in it," Lallemant said.
Source: Lallemant C. Oocyte freezing for social indications: an internet based survey of knowledge, attitudes and intentions among women in Denmark and the United Kingdom. 2014.