Women are freezing their eggs to avoid 'panic parenting' with an unsuitable partner

Women are freezing their eggs to avoid ‘panic parenting’ with an unsuitable partner, research has revealed [Photo: Getty]
Women are freezing their eggs to avoid ‘panic parenting’ with an unsuitable partner, research has revealed [Photo: Getty]

Single women are freezing their eggs to avoid ‘panic parenting‘, new research suggests.

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.

In one of the first studies to analyse the driving forces behind the process of women freezing their eggs, the research team interviewed 31 women who had frozen their eggs for ‘social’ reasons.

The participants, 84 per cent of whom were single, were asked why they had chosen to do this, how they found the experience, and what information they were provided about the probability of eventually achieving a live birth with frozen eggs.

The results revealed that the lack of a partner or having a partner unwilling to commit to fatherhood was the most common reason for women opting to freeze their eggs.

And it seems many women are looking at the process as a sort of fertility insurance policy with some claiming the process of egg freezing to be something of an ‘end in itself’, providing them with more ‘breathing time’, and taking the pressure off the search for a suitable partner.

Many detailed how they hoped to never need to use their frozen eggs preferring to conceive naturally with a future partner.

For many the process was described as emotionally difficult because they did not want to be freezing their eggs, and would rather be having children with a committed partner.

Researchers also expressed concern that the information available to women considering freezing their eggs was reported to be inadequate.

Nearly all the women said that the clinics they contacted weren’t able to provide an estimate of the likelihood of a future live birth with their frozen eggs.

Though this is difficult for experts to predict as since 2001 only 60 babies have been born from frozen eggs.

Following the results study authors are calling for women to be offering more support when going through the egg freezing process.

Commenting on the findings co-study author Dr Kylie Baldwin of the Centre for Reproduction Research at De Montfort University said: “Whilst the number of women freezing their eggs remains small, many more are now considering this option as a way of extending the window of time they have to pursue genetic motherhood.

“Clinics providing this technology have a responsibility to support informed decision-making by providing women who enquire about egg freezing with detailed information about the likelihood of achieving a live birth specific to their age at freezing.

“Furthermore, women should be informed of the costs and risks, as well as the physical and emotional demands of egg freezing and any future IVF treatment.

“Clinics should also be aware of the specific emotional needs of women undergoing egg freezing who are more likely than IVF patients to be undertaking this uncertain and ambiguous process without the support of a partner.’

The real reason women are freezing their eggs [Photo: Getty]
The real reason women are freezing their eggs [Photo: Getty]

The HFEA describes egg freezing as a procedure for collecting a woman’s eggs, freezing them and then thawing them later on so they can be used in fertility treatment.

But it is not necessarily a simple procedure. Egg freezing forms part of an IVF process, which usually takes around two to three weeks to complete.

Normally, it involves taking drugs to boost your egg production and help the eggs mature. When they’re ready, they’ll be collected whilst you’re under general anaesthetic or sedation.

Once the eggs are collected, a cryoprotectant (freezing solution) will be added to protect them. The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen.

There’s the cost to consider too. The average cost of having your eggs collected and frozen is, wait for it, £2,500 to £5,000. Storage costs are extra and tend to be between £150 and £400 per year.

According to the HFEA’s latest report, 3,676 women have undergone the procedure since 2001.

Previous to this new research, the most common reason given for freezing was having no male partner with a third of women aged 37 and under citing this as the reason for undergoing the procedure, with this figure rising to more than half for women aged 38 and over.

According to the Guardian, other reasons for freezing eggs include impending medical treatment that may affect fertility – such as chemotherapy for cancer; not feeling ready for motherhood but concerned about fertility declining; the desire to delay motherhood for professional reasons; risk of injury or death, for instance for a member of the armed forces who is about to be deployed to a war zone; or that the woman is undergoing gender reassignment.

If the statistics are anything to go by, this pressure to freeze our eggs is relatively current, especially after Facebook and Apple have both reportedly begun to offer 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.

And let’s not forget the leading fertility expert who claimed that girls as young as nine should be advised about their ticking biological clock.

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