Social egg freezing: empowering, but not an insurance policy

April 17, 2019

Egg freezing is a procedure to preserve a woman’s eggs to enable women to delay conception and pregnancy until a later time. A women’s eggs are extracted, frozen and stored. Women may then choose to have the eggs thawed, fertilized via IVF, and transferred to the uterus as embryos to enable a pregnancy.

While egg freezing is often offered to patients for medical reasons, such as preserving fertility post chemotherapy for cancer treatment, however there has been an increased interest in egg freezing for social reasons. Increased interest in social egg freezing has been linked to a number of complex and interrelated reasons for delayed childbearing, including personal, professional, financial and psychological factors.

In late 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology announced that they would no longer consider oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) to be an experimental procedure. However, the procedure does not guarantee success and there are high private treatment costs, as well as the side effects associated with egg freezing and IVF treatment. But with improving success rates over the years, egg freezing does offer some women the opportunity to delay pregnancy until later in life.

In an argument for social egg freezing, it can extend the window of opportunity for single women to find the right partner and offer them hope when their fertility may be in decline. The procedure also offers women the ability to delay their fertility if they are not ready to have children.

However, it must be stressed that egg freezing does not guarantee a baby in the future. Women should also be aware that in the UK the storage limit for eggs frozen for social reasons is currently limited to 10 years. Success rates also decrease with a women’s age. The highest predictive factor for successful egg freezing is below age 36 years, despite many women freezing their eggs being above this age. Women in their late thirties would need approximately 30 eggs to have a good chance of achieving pregnancy. These women would, therefore, require on average three cycles of ovarian stimulation to produce enough eggs resulting in high costs.

While women should be supported in their choices, they must be informed about the relatively low success rates, high costs and side effects associated with egg freezing and IVF treatment. If a woman does decide to freeze her eggs for social reasons, she should have counselling with a reproductive specialist and choose a clinic that has plenty of experience. The clinic should provide a realistic idea of potential success related to her age. It is important to note that while advances in technology have improved egg freezing success rates, there are no guarantees for women in their late thirties.


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  1. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Social egg freezing: risk, benefits and other considerations. Accessed 2st April 2019.
  2. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. RCOG suggests caution over social egg freezing. Accessed2st April 2019.