The majority of women who freeze their eggs don’t even use them, research shows
- Scientists followed 843 women who frozen their eggs between 2009 and 2019
- By May 2022, only about a quarter had returned to the center for treatment
The majority of women who freeze their eggs end up not using them at all, a study suggests.
In recent years, the number of women trying to preserve their fertility has skyrocketed, despite the physical and financial toll of the process.
But most women who choose this option — with an eye-watering price tag of thousands of pounds — end up not using their eggs or even returning to the fertility clinic at all, according to new research.
A team from Brussels University Hospital, a teaching hospital in Belgium, studied 843 women who had opted to have their eggs frozen between 2009 and 2019.
Their average age was then 36 and the majority had no partner.
A team from Brussels University Hospital, a teaching hospital in Belgium, studied 843 women who had opted to have their eggs frozen between 2009 and 2019. Their average age was then 36 and the majority had no partner. But by May 2022, only about a quarter – 27 percent – of women had returned to the center for treatment
By May 2022, only about a quarter — 27 percent — of women had returned to the center for treatment.
Their average age when they returned was 40, and most of them were in a relationship at the time.
Of the women who returned for fertility treatment, less than half – 48 percent – chose to use their frozen eggs.
Some underwent intrauterine insemination – where sperm is delivered directly into the uterus – while the rest underwent other fertility treatments such as IVF with fresh eggs.
Further analysis showed that the average age of the women who used frozen eggs was 42, while the women who used fresh eggs were about three years younger.
This suggests that egg freezing could help women have babies when they’re older, the researchers said, but experts warned it could be an “expensive choice” and many women hadn’t returned to using them.
Dr. Ezgi Darici presented the research at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Copenhagen.
She said: ‘More and more women are choosing to freeze their eggs in the hope that they can have children later in life.
However, this can be an expensive choice and there is a lack of evidence to show how useful it is.
‘We found that many women who chose to freeze eggs in their 30s had not yet returned for fertility treatment.
‘Of those who did return for treatment, about half used their frozen eggs. These were, on average, older women.’
Professor Carlos Calhaz-Jorge, President of ESHRE, said: ‘The aim of elective cryopreservation of oocytes is to reduce the risk of infertility later in life.
However, this can be an expensive choice and there is a lack of evidence to show how useful it is. This study suggests that frozen eggs may be helpful for older women who have difficulty conceiving children; however, we need much more research to prove this to be the case.
Routine reporting on fertility outcomes for women who choose to freeze their eggs would help build a clearer picture. This could help to draw up guidelines for young women who are considering freezing their eggs.’
Statistics released late last year showed lockdowns during Covid led to an egg-freezing wave among women fearful of running out of time to have a baby.
Figures showed that 1,874 women will have their eggs frozen in the UK in 2020 – a number that has almost doubled since 2015, when 945 women opted for the procedure.
The whole process, including freezing and thawing eggs, comes with an average price tag of £8,000.
A separate study from earlier this year also revealed that women who freeze their eggs over the age of 40 are very unlikely to have a baby.
A research team led by Imperial College London looked at all 373 women who had their eggs frozen for more than a decade at a large private clinic in London.
About a third of those who were in their early or late 30s at the time of egg freezing went on to have a baby when they returned to the clinic.
But zero percent of women who were 40 or older at the time of egg freezing had a baby during the 2008 and 2018 study period.