Failure to find 'Mr Right' is driving growing numbers of older women to put motherhood on ice.
Women in their 30s and 40s, who once would have settled for second best, are freezing their eggs while they continue their search for a man who is father material, British fertility doctors have revealed.
Their plight echoes that of radio presenter and model Lisa Snowdon who recently revealed her worries that she is part of a growing female phenomenon of SAS: single, attractive and successful women who have everything except for a partner.
Miss Snowdon, 38, counts George Clooney among her former beaus but has been single for five years.
Last night, British fertility doctors said contrary to the popular perception, the majority of women freezing their eggs for non-medical reasons are not career hungry but simply unlucky in love.
The youngest woman seen at the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine is 28 - most are in their late 30s. Dr Srilatha Gorthi, a senior research fellow at the clinic, said: 'The come in their 30s or late 30s if they haven't found the right partner.'
At the Care chain of fertility clinics, the technique is now as popular with healthy women as with cancer patients and women at risk of premature menopause.
Dr Simon Fishel, managing director of the 11-clinic chain, said: 'We don't see many women of 20 or even 30. 'Women are coming in in their late 30s because they are starting to feel that nothing is happening. They have fallen out of a relationships, they haven't got a man, they are career people.'
The trend was brought to light by a study of all the women who had applied to have their eggs frozen at a Belgian clinic between July of last year and May of this year.
Highly-educated, financially secure women, they were all in their late 30s and early 40s, and had considered adoption or single motherhood, before plumping to spend hundreds of pounds on IVF and egg vitrification, or freezing.
They told their doctors that they wanted to 'take the pressure of the search for the right partner' and 'give a future relationship more time to blossom' before bringing up the subject of babies.
Some of the 26 women also said they were taking out insurance against future infertility, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual conference heard.
Study leader Dr Julie Nekkebroeck, from the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at the Free University of Brussels, said: 'The women I saw were not young calculating career women who have everything worked out and deliberately postpone motherhood to advance their careers.
'By vitrifying their oocytes (eggs) they wanted to buy time to find the right partner and do everything they could to prevent age-related infertility. 'Moreover, frozen oocytes were considered as very precious goods, since even if they would meet "Mr Right" in the near future, they would only use the frozen oocytes in the last instance, after trying to conceive naturally.'
But others warned that egg freezing does not guarantee motherhood - and pointed out that by the time a woman reaches her late 30s, the quality of her eggs will have already deteriorated.
Clare Lewis-Jones, of the charity Infertility Network UK, said: 'Many women now choose to delay having children and although they should be supported in that choice, they need to be aware of the potential problems they may encounter when they do decide the time is right for motherhood.
'Age has an impact on male as well as female fertility and when they do meet Mr Right, they may well find that he has fertility problems. They also need to be aware that using fertility treatment is no guarantee of success.'
Professor David Adamson, of the International Federation of Fertility Societies, cautioned: 'Planning reproductive life should be based on accurate information.
'The potential value of social egg freezing is yet to be determined through further studies because of concerns about its effectiveness, safety for the baby, and its application in healthy women.
'At this time, there’s no guarantee that egg-freezing will result in a baby in the future, even for young women. 'There is much misunderstanding of impact of age on reproduction, but essentially if a woman freezes her eggs when she is young, she has a greater chance of success than does an older woman who freezes her eggs.'
Robert Winston, the IVF pioneer and broadcaster, last year called for a curb on clinics offering freezing for non-medical reasons until more research was carried out.
He said: 'Women are paying a very high premium for an expensive "insurance" policy. 'And this policy should not be sold at the present time although it is being sold at clinics in London and other places. 'The whole thing is a bit of a confidence trick.'
The procedure was introduced to give cancer patients, who face the risk of being left infertile by their treatment, the possibility of still having children later in life.
But, today, several hundred British women have put their eggs on ice and a handful of babies have been born. Forty five clinics do egg freezing, charging £2,500 to £5,000 per session. But some women could go through up to 10 sessions, taking their bill to £50,000.
Article: www.dailymail.co.uk 28th June 2010
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