2 July 2014

Social Egg Freezing Study aims to understand women's experiences

Melbourne IVF logo

Written by

Melbourne IVF

Melbourne IVF in collaboration with The Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at The University of Melbourne, is about to commence a study aiming to explore the experiences of women who have frozen their eggs for non-medical reasons. 

The study, which will invite all patients who have frozen their eggs through Melbourne IVF for social reasons over the past 15 years, aims to increase the understanding of the context in which women decided to freeze their eggs, including their views about the information they were given, their clinical care, and their expectations for and outcomes of subsequent use of their stored eggs.

A/Prof John McBain AO, Director, Fertility Specialist at Melbourne IVF and Associate Investigator in the study, said our growing interest in this area of egg freezing is reinforced in light of the international research being presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction in Germany this week.

“Egg freezing has been an option for many years for women who wish to preserve their fertility prior to undergoing cancer treatment that may leave them infertile, however now that vitrification for freezing eggs has improved the success of the procedure, we are seeing an increasing number of women wishing to freeze their eggs for social reasons.

“The types of women we see are mostly single, who wish to freeze their eggs in the event they do not meet a partner until later in life when their fertility potential is reduced.  Occasionally we have women who are in a relationship but who for a variety of reasons are not in a position to start a family, and who wish to preserve their fertility for the future when they are ready. 

A/Prof McBain said that while Melbourne IVF has seen an increasing number of women interested in freezing their eggs, only a relatively small proportion of women actually proceed with the procedure.

“We find that many women who are by circumstances wishing to freeze their eggs, and who are in a financial position to do so, are also more likely to be aged at least in their mid-30s, and advanced maternal age will unfortunately negatively impact the number and quality of good eggs available and therefore the outcome.

“The reality is that while the success of egg freezing has improved significantly over the last 20 years, egg freezing still only offers a finite number of opportunities to have a successful pregnancy in the future, depending on the age of the woman, the number of mature eggs suitable for freezing, and how many eggs survive the thawing process,” A/Prof McBain said.

“What we say to patients is that while we are not yet able to offer “egg insurance”, egg freezing technology is sufficiently well developed for women in their 20s and early 30s to seriously consider the technology, to provide options for her future fertility.

With recent scientific advances particularly with regards to the freezing process for eggs, it is expected that 80–90% of eggs will survive the freezing/thawing process for potential fertilisation through IVF, and about 50–70% of eggs fertilise normally. This means that for every 10 eggs frozen, patients can expect about three to four good quality, usable embryos to be created successfully.

Professor Jane Fisher, Director of the Jean Hailes Research Unit and one of the Chief Investigators of this study, said that while it is becoming more common to freeze eggs for later use, there is little known about women’s experiences and expectations of this practice in Australia.

“The anonymously-completed survey will explore women’s circumstances at the time of freezing and what has happened to them and their stored material since. Participants will be asked whether they have had any children, including from the stored material, their plans for their stored eggs, and their views about the information and care they received before, during and after the egg retrieval procedure.

“The results will improve our understanding of women’s needs for fertility-related services and clinical care related to the freezing of eggs,” Professor Fisher said.

Patients who have frozen eggs at Melbourne IVF who wish to participate in the study are encouraged to contact the Melbourne IVF Clinical Research Department on (03) 9473 4570.

Share this