Number of women freezing eggs hits record high

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Wednesday 21st June 2023

The number of women who are freezing their eggs has reached a record high. Statistics from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show that more than 4,000 people froze their eggs in 2021 compared to 2,500 in 2019. The significant rise in egg freezing could be linked to the pandemic, according to Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Education Trust charity. Ms Norcross explained that some women thought more about their fertility during the pandemic due to restrictions on socialising and having more time to think about the future. Some women may have decided to explore options like freezing their eggs to provide additional reproductive choices. The report also showed that despite the increase in egg freezing, fewer women were donating their eggs. The number of new egg donors fell from almost 1,500 in 2019 to just over 1,400 in 2021. 

Helen Henry, from Essex, decided to freeze her eggs 10 years ago when she was 34. At the time, she was in a long-term relationship, but her partner wasn’t sure whether he wanted to have children. Helen was offered the option to donate some of the eggs, which she took, and later found out that a baby girl had been born from her donation. Helen had children with a new partner at the age of 39. She said she was lucky to fall pregnant naturally very quickly and now, aged 44, has another child. Although she said that process wouldn’t suit everyone and she never used her frozen eggs, she admitted that she was reassured by having the option. 

Egg freezing has become an increasingly common talking point in recent years, with more women deciding to pursue this option and the media shining a spotlight on the process. Recently, reality TV star, Vicky Pattison, 35, shared her experiences after opting to freeze her eggs because she wasn’t ready to have children. Vicky, who is engaged to her partner, Ercan and lives in Essex, recently froze some of her eggs. She decided to keep three of the eggs unfertilised and had three more fertilised using her partner’s sperm to form embryos. There is a 10% chance of the unfertilised eggs becoming a baby and a 20% chance that the frozen embryos will result in a baby.

Vicky, who appeared on Geordie Shore and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, documented her journey on social media, highlighting the highs and lows of the process. She wanted to give an honest, candid account, which showed her followers what actually happens because she feels that there is not enough accurate, transparent information available. 

The HFEA said that levels of success are highly dependent on the age of the woman when she freezes her eggs. Results are better among women aged under 35.
Bassel Wattar, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said that patients need better access to information and support when considering their fertility and reproductive options. More needs to be done to highlight the pros and cons and ensure that women understand what freezing their eggs entails and how successful the procedure is. It’s important to improve education so that women can make decisions that improve their chances of getting pregnant and having children in the future. 

Egg freezing is more complex than many people may think and involves taking drugs to stimulate and boost egg production and encourage the eggs to mature before collection. After the individual takes medication, the eggs are collected and frozen. When a woman decides that it is the right time to try to have a baby, the eggs are thawed and used in fertility treatment. The success of treatment depends on the age of the woman, as the number and quality of eggs decreases with age. 

Many women are choosing to freeze their eggs because they want to optimise their chances of having a healthy baby down the line. This may be because they’re not ready to have children, they don’t know if they want children in the future or they haven’t met somebody who they see themselves having a family with, for example. Egg freezing is not widely available on the NHS and is usually only viable for patients who are undergoing medical treatment, which may impact fertility. According to the HFEA, the average cost of the procedure in the UK is around £3,400. Storing the eggs costs up to £350 per year.