Leading Fertility expert Dr Gillian Lockwood says that women are still leaving it to late to try and have a baby.
Dr Lockwood has suggested that Egg freezing should be every father’s graduation present to his daughter. Dr Lockwood, of the Midland Fertility Centre, where half of Britain’s babies conceived from frozen eggs originated, said young women are still not getting the message about infertility.
She told The Times: ‘One part of me wants to say that [egg freezing] should be every dad’s graduation present for his daughter. It would be a very safe, low dose, and you could have 20 beautiful eggs in the freezer.
'But – and it’s a very big but – I’m concerned about how that would alter a woman’s life choices, that they might think: “Well, instead of having a family with Mr Not Quite Perfect, I can afford to wait for Mr Absolutely perfect”.
In Britain, women are delaying childbirth later than ever: the average woman here has her first child at 31, compared to 24 in 1962. About 6,500 eggs have been stored in Britain in the decade since egg freezing was licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Yet the chances of conceiving a baby from a frozen egg are low, and preparing for it is a painful, costly process involving potent fertility drugs, chemicals and surgery.
Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston is rumoured to have frozen her eggs, and in a recent episode of the U.S. reality television show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kim injected herself with hormones in preparation for doing the same.
But despite egg freezing being something often talked about as a viable option, just 12 babies have been born from frozen eggs in this country. However this may slowly change after a recent report by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) stated that egg freezing is no longer experimental technology. The organisation has recommended that women freeze their eggs in their 20s and 30s to help them conceive later in life.
And it is timing that is key, says Dr Lockwood. 'By the time many women decide they want to freeze their eggs, they are often in their late 30s, when their eggs have declined in quality significantly. I get many calls from women around the age of 38 who want their eggs frozen,’ she told the Mail last month.
Last year Brigitte Adams decided to freeze her eggs at the age of 38, to safeguard what was left of her fertility ‘A frozen egg from a 38-year-old will be better than a fresh one from a 42-year-old, but pregnancy is still not very likely.’ Dr Lockwood added that a 30-year-old who freezes her eggs would have a 30-40 per cent chance of having a child. After 38, this falls to 25 per cent.
And even freezing your eggs at 30 could have its downsides, she said. 'Will it mean a woman waits around all her life for Mr Perfect, knowing she has healthy eggs from her 30-year-old self in the freezer, but then becomes bitter because she has rejected all the Mr Pretty Well Good Enoughs and found herself single and childless at 45, with frozen eggs that turned out not to work?’
Other experts have cautioned that egg freezing is by no means a fail-safe insurance policy. Dr Magdy Asaad, clinical director of the London Fertility Centre, says the chances of getting a baby from a frozen egg are about 1 to 3 per cent for each egg. Also, only eight out of ten eggs survive the thawing process and there are still some concerns about whether egg freezing is effective or safe in terms of the long-term health of children.
There have also been suggestions that chemicals applied to the egg wall during flash-freezing could potentially damage the egg. Egg freezing is funded by the NHS if carried out for women having cancer treatment. Otherwise it costs £5,000 per cycle, then £200 a year to pay for safe storage of the eggs.
One woman who chose to freeze her eggs was Brigitte Adams. Last year, at the age of 38, she decided to take action to safeguard what was left of her fertility. She told The Times: 'I know I have less than a 30 per cent chance - but it's better than zero chance. I feel I have at least done something proactive and have a back-up plan.' She has gone on to found the website Eggsurance to encourage other women to think about freezing their eggs as an 'insurance policy' that can be used later.
Ms Adams was 37 when she started thinking about the procedure. 'I just always expected that at my age I would already have kids. I also had some close friends who were either going through difficult IVF treatments or looking into the adoption process. 'I contacted a fertility doctor in my city who told me to “just get pregnant". Not exactly what I wanted to hear.' She adds that she assumed because she ate well and exercised that she must have a healthy supply of eggs. 'So I was surprised when I learned that maternal age directly correlates to the health of your eggs.'
Her family were incredibly supportive, she says. 'My parents were all for it and even offered to pay for some of the treatment costs. My friends, on the other hand, were shocked initially as they did not know anybody who had had their eggs frozen. 'However, once I explained the procedure to them they were extremely supportive and of great help. You really need a strong support system through a process like this as it is both physically and emotionally challenging.'
Article: 26th November 2012 www.dailymail.co.uk
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