Egg Freezing Is 'No Guarantee Of A Baby', Women Are Warned

The success rate for live births could be as low as one in five, research suggests.

Women considering egg freezing need to know it’s “no guarantee of a baby”, experts have warned, highlighting that just 18% of treatments have led to a successful birth in the past 15 years.

Proponents of egg freezing say it’s a way for women to delay motherhood if they’re not yet ready to be parents, but would like to be in the future. The treatment involves having eggs collected, frozen and stored, before they’re thawed and used in a process much like IVF at a later date.

The process is the fastest growing fertility treatment in the UK and companies including Google, Apple and Facebook have divided opinion by offering the treatment to female employees.

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But researchers presenting at the Fertility 2020 conference in Edinburgh on Thursday called for caution. The team, led by Dr Meenakshi Choudhary at Newcastle Fertility Centre, analysed data from the UK’s fertility regulator, the HFEA, over 15 years. The live birth rate using the patient’s frozen eggs was 18%.

However, it should be noted that 15 years is a long time for such a fast-moving technology. Much of this is historical data and the techniques for using frozen eggs have improved. HFEA data from egg freezing completed in 2017 shows “success rates from frozen cycles are now comparable with fresh cycles, with birth rates per embryo transferred (PET) of 23% and 21% respectively”.

In other words, egg freezing is about as successful as regular IVF – but neither come with a guarantee of a baby.

“The suggestion is that women seeking to preserve their fertility should be aware that they may have as little as a one in five chance of having a baby later,” the researchers said.

Dr Mariano Mascarenhas from Leeds Fertility, who presented the research, added that “the chances of having a baby can improve if eggs are stored early in life”.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t account for the age at which eggs are stored or when and how they were stored because that information isn’t available,” he said. “So, for some patients the chances for success may be a bit higher.”

“It is important that we tell our patients about the risk that they may not have their much-wanted baby.”

- Dr Mariano Mascarenhas from Leeds Fertility

“Importantly, the live birth rate using frozen donor eggs was considerably higher, at 31%,” added Dr Mascarenhas. “Hence for young fit women with no fertility issues, the success of egg freezing may ultimately be much greater. It is still important that we tell our patients about the risk that they may not have their much-wanted baby.”

But for some women, undergoing egg freezing despite knowing the stats will still feel like a good option.

Sarah Bagg was 38 when she decided to freeze her eggs. “I’d always thought, like a lot of women do, that I was going to have kids and it was all going to happen naturally,” she previously told HuffPost UK.

Then, after the breakdown of a longterm relationship, Bagg decided to undergo egg freezing. She isn’t sure whether she’ll go on to use her frozen eggs, but she doesn’t regret paying for the procedure.

“It was part of my own healing process, as well as being able to put a plan into action,” she said. “If I wasn’t able to [freeze my eggs], I don’t think I would have asked myself all the questions I have done in the last three years. I would still be chasing a partner to be a dad, rather than being happy in myself.”