Women freeze eggs to wait for 'Mr Right'

By Emma Wilkinson
Health reporter, BBC News, in Rome

Image caption,
Modern technologies promise to help women preserve their fertility

Women in their late 30s are freezing eggs because they are still hunting for "Mr Right", research suggests.

A study of women at a Belgian clinic found half wanted to freeze their eggs to take the pressure off finding a partner, a fertility conference heard.

A third were also having eggs frozen as an "insurance policy" against infertility.

Many students would also consider the procedure to focus on a career before motherhood, a separate UK survey found.

The study of nearly 200 students showed eight in 10 doing a medical degree would freeze their eggs to delay starting a family.

Among sports and education students half said they would consider it.

Egg freezing is still a relatively new technology, which enables a woman to save eggs for future IVF treatment if needed.

The chance of success is better with younger, healthier eggs, yet most women currently choosing the procedure are in their late 30s and opting for egg freezing as a "last resort".

The average cost of egg freezing is around £3,000 per attempt and some women may have to undergo up to three cycles in order to preserve a good number of eggs.

Speaking at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference, Dr Julie Nekkebroeck, who carried out the small Belgian study of 15 women, said they also found that 27% wanted to give their relationship a chance to blossom before bringing up the subject of having a baby.

The women who had an average age of 38 did not expect to use their frozen eggs until they were around 43 and they realised they needed to undergo the procedure while they were still healthy and fertile.

"We found that they had all had partners in the past, and one was currently in a relationship, but they had not fulfilled their desire to have a child because they thought that they had not found the right man."

Career concerns

Dr Srilatha Gorthi from the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine, who presented the UK study at the same conference, said it was the first time that young women's attitudes to fertility had been examined in this way.

She said the medical students gave career reasons as the most common reason for considering egg collection while the other students were more concerned about financial stability.

And she added that society needs to better support young women in having a family when they are ready without compromising their careers.

"Women thinking about undergoing this procedure must be provided with accurate information and have counselling to both the benefits and limitations of oocyte freezing compared with other options," she said.

Clare Lewis-Jones from Infertility Network UK said it is extremely important that people are aware of the effects of age on their fertility.

"Many women now choose to delay having children and although they should be supported in that choice, they need to be aware of the potential problems they may encounter when they do decide the time is right for motherhood.

"Age has an impact on male as well as female fertility and when they do meet Mr Right, they may well find that he has fertility problems.

"They also need to be aware that using fertility treatment is no guarantee of success."

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