Social egg freezing
George F Winter takes a look at the evolving landscape of modern pregnancy options and what it means for women
According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA, 2021), ‘egg freezing is one way of preserving a woman's fertility so she can try to have a family in the future. It involves collecting a woman's eggs, freezing them, and then thawing them later so they can be used in fertility treatment’. Such oocyte preservation for non-medical indications has also been called ‘elective egg freezing’, ‘social egg freezing’, or ‘oocyte banking for anticipated gamete exhaustion (AGE)’, states Polyakov and Rozen (2021), who also note that in the UK, there is a 10% annual growth in the number of women who participate in AGE banking.
Given that we appear to be at the dawn of a new oocyte-related ice age, there are ethical aspects of the procedure that perhaps deserve consideration. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG, 2018) has urged caution, observing that ‘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’. The high cost is confirmed by the HFEA (2021), who state that ‘the whole process for egg freezing and thawing costs an average of £7 000–£8 000’.
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