There has been quite a debate about egg freezing after a call for the NHS to offer egg freezing for women of 30 to 35 as an insurance policy for their future fertility – you can read more about it here. Although the suggestion was supported by the patient charity Fertility Network UK, others didn’t agree, and Lord Winston warned that he felt women risked being exploited by the suggestion. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also called for caution where social egg freezing is concerned. It’s an interesting debate.
Perhaps freezing eggs might for some women save future heartache, but it’s still far from guaranteed that taking this option will result in a baby in the future. As anyone who has experience of IVF knows, having a good stock of eggs doesn’t bring any certainties, and women might need to go through a number of cycles of freezing to have eggs for the future. But could investing in egg freezing save the NHS money in the long run? An egg freezing cycle is essentially the same as an IVF cycle but split into different stages – so you are still harvesting eggs, fertilising them in the laboratory and then replacing them into the womb at a later date. So might you actually end up paying for IVF for women who might not ever need it? The reality is that the majority of people pay for their fertility treatment themselves, and perhaps sorting out the postcode lottery of funding for IVF in England would be a better first move as this is a medical treatment for people who have fertility issues, rather than a medical treatment for people who are trying to insure against having difficulties in the future. What do you think?
I’ve just watched this really interesting feature about women from China travelling overseas to freeze their eggs. Apparently, unmarried women are not allowed to access any form of fertility treatment in China, including egg freezing. In fact, women who are married are far less likely to want to freeze eggs anyway, but the restrictions have seen growing numbers of women travelling overseas in order to freeze their eggs.
What’s quite sad about this is that many of the women clearly believe that they have bought themselves time, or some kind of insurance, by freezing their eggs when – as anyone who has been through fertility issues knows only too well – having frozen eggs is no guarantee of anything in the future.
There have been a couple of interesting items on egg freezing in the last few days. The first is a piece from the Telegraph, based around a BBC Radio 4 documentary about egg freezing presented by Fi Glover which looks at the reality of egg freezing. It’s definitely worth a read – and a listen – as it looks at why people consider egg freezing and asks whether the promises it offers are a reality.
At the same time, the Guardian’s Mariella Frostrup was answering a dilemma in a letter from someone who felt angry and let down by a friend who had suggested that she shouldn’t bother freezing her eggs at 35 as she was now 40, wanting a baby and had been told she had possibly left it too late. What was most interesting about this was the completely misplaced certainty that she would have been able to have children had she frozen her eggs, when in fact as Fi Glover’s programme and the Telegraph article explain, this may be very far from the case.
There is a huge media interest in egg freezing, and this is an interesting discussion whatever your point of view…
Egg freezing has been in the news once again this week with a story about a pop-up shop, Timeless, which will set up in London at the end of the month aiming to educate people about what is really involved in freezing eggs. It will contain products which are made to look like items you may find on Beauty shelves, such as the Eau de Pressure perfume range and the 3 simple steps to freeze your fertility, reminiscent of Clinique’s 3 step system. There will also be some debates.
There was a lengthy article by Eva Wiseman in The Observer on the subject, followed by an interesting opinion piece from Viv Groskop. You can also visit the Timeless website for more information. What do you think? Is it a good idea to provide more information in this kind of way? Does it end up just being another marketing tool for egg-freezing by giving a platform or is this really going to make people stop and think? De let me know your opinions on the subject…
You couldn’t fail to have heard about egg freezing, which seems to have captured media attention as the latest development in fertility treatment to be regularly hitting the headlines, but do you know all that you should?
Is egg freezing something that every young woman should be considering? Or is it just the latest money-making enterprise from the fertility sector? Should it be reserved for those who need to preserve their fertility for medical reasons rather than be freely available to young, healthy women?
I was at a seminar recently where the idea that egg freezing would lead to more equality between the sexes was debated – if women were able freeze eggs when they were younger, it was argued, they wouldn’t need to worry about their biological clocks. Women could have children when they wanted rather than in the time frame that nature specifies, thus making them more like men. It was pointed out that men have been freezing sperm for decades and yet when women are given the chance to freeze eggs, we suddenly raise all kinds of ethical issues.
It’s an interesting argument, but is egg freezing really a way of making women more equal?For a start, it’s a costly business and is only ever likely to be available to those who can afford to pay. And it’s often not until a time when female fertility is already in decline that most women have the money – or the inclination – to freeze their eggs.
The other concern for those who freeze is that having a store of eggs in the bank could lull them into a false sense of security. Women are sold the idea of preserving their fertility but fertility isn’t something you can pickle in a jar – and freezing your eggs isn’t a guarantee that you will eventually have a baby or even viable embryos. The eggs have to survive thawing, they have to fertilise, develop and implant. Success rates are not high.
So is egg freezing a feminist issue? Will it allow women to stop worrying about their declining fertility? Is it empowering them or is it storing up future disappointment?