Words by Marie Claire Dorking and Francesca Specter.
Almost one in two young women would consider freezing their eggs, research has found.
Some 44% of 18 to 24 year old women said they would consider the fertility treatment in the future, while a quarter (25%) in this age group also voiced that they were already concerned about their ability to conceive.
Almost half of UK women of all ages also said they had been worried about their fertility, while three in five (62%) said they felt overwhelmed by the amount of fertility advice on offer.
The findings come from a poll of 1,002 women, which was released by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) ahead of the institution’s first ever Fertility Forum information day, which was take place on 30 March.
Egg freezing has been a popular discussion point in recent years, with interest in the procedure growing, with those undergoing the procedure tripling in the space of five years.
However, the regulations surrounding this process have been met with controversy. Earlier this year, fertility experts called for women who freeze their eggs to be able to store them for longer than 10 years.
Currently legislation states that frozen eggs must be destroyed after this period, unless a medical condition has left the woman prematurely infertile.
But experts have told the ‘Victoria Derbyshire programme’ that the time limit doesn’t have any scientific basis and doesn’t keep up with changes in technology.
Since the legislation was introduced, methods of egg freezing has altered, and the current method, vitrification, means eggs can be frozen without deterioration for an unspecified period of time.
So campaigners are now calling for an extension to the legislation, claiming it would improve women’s chances of having a baby or rushing to find a sperm donor before their 10-year egg freezing deadline.
Today will see a meeting of three experts and junior health minister Jackie Doyle-Price to discuss the topic.
“There’s absolutely no biological reason for this law,” Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, and one of the experts attending the meeting told BBC.
“It’s discriminatory against women and removing an option for them to take charge of their reproductive system.
“If you want to freeze your eggs in your late 20s, you might not then have decided you want to use them by your late 30s.”
Also commenting on the egg freezing timescale Dr Marie Wren, Deputy Medical Director the Lister Fertility Clinic (part of HCA Healthcare UK), says: “The current 10 year time limit for storing frozen eggs was set up so that clinics do not end up with unwanted frozen material stored indefinitely for very old patients.
“Extending the 10 year storage limit would allow women who are thinking about their freezing eggs below the age of 30, or in their early 30s, to have more time to meet a suitable partner.
“Perhaps it would be more beneficial for the eggs to be stored away until the woman reaches the age of 45 or 50 – when the woman is less likely to want them for assisted fertility purposes.”
The topic was also debate in the House of Lords last year with Conservative Lord O’Shaunghnessy claiming any extension to time limits for egg storage “would be a significant social policy change.”
Campaigners also launched a petition encouraging Parliament to change the HFE Act which limits storage to ten years claiming it is “too short for healthy young women wanting to preserve their opportunities to conceive later in life.”
“Considering the reasons women freeze their eggs, we would like to campaign for extending the social egg freezing storage limit to 55 years for all women,” campaigners stated in a BioNews article.
“Extending the time limit in such a way would ensure parity between freezing eggs for social and medical reasons, and would eliminate the sex-based inequality between women and men for freezing eggs and sperm.”
The calls for an extension to egg freezing time limits come as new research revealed that single women are freezing their eggs to avoid ‘panic parenting‘.
The data, published in the Human Fertility journal, revealed that the most common motivator is a desire to avoid jumping into unwise relationships to have a genetically-related child.
Egg freezing has been clocking up other headlines recently too with Facebook and Apple both reportedly now offering egg-freezing among their company benefits.
And some celebrities have been open about their undertaking of the process too with Rita Ora revealing last year that she has frozen her eggs in a bid to future proof her fertility.
It’s hardly surprising that so many women are opting to look to freezing their eggs. For years, women have lived under the threat of a ticking fertility timebomb. Barely a day passes without some reference to the female biological clock.
One doctor even recommended that all single women over the age of 35 should be freezing their eggs, while a further report suggested that women who’re hoping to have a big family should start trying for their first child at the age of 23.
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