How old is too old to freeze eggs? Doctors clash over fertility advice

 

A British fertility expert has clashed with a US specialist over when is the "right" time for single women who want children to resort to freezing their eggs.

Gillian Lockwood, medical director of Midland Fertility Services in Aldridge, near Birmingham, defended the practice despite US research showing that the average age of women seeking egg freezing for social reasons is between 37 and 39 – by which time their eggs are rapidly deteriorating.

A review of 26 studies to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Orlando today has found that women who froze their eggs when they were under 30 had higher rates of success than those who were older.

Roger Lobo, president of the ASRM, warned women not to leave it too late. Dr Lobo said egg freezing was still "an experimental procedure" with "insufficient evidence" to show whether it was a "worthwhile undertaking".

"Despite increasing numbers of clinics offering the procedure and the significant media attention paid to it in recent years, women are not pursuing elective egg freezing at an age when it would be most likely to help them accomplish their fertility goals."

But Dr Lockwood said although it was true that egg freezing was not an option for many women in their late 30s, "we have to ask what the comparator is here".

"The comparator is how well will these women do with their own eggs in their early 40s? A 39-year-old frozen egg is going to do better in IVF than a 42-year-old fresh egg, because the drop-off becomes so sharp during these years."

Dr Lockwood said she was frequently contacted by women in their mid to late 30s who were still single and wanted to freeze their eggs. "They've discovered Mr Right has turned out to be Mr Wrong. They are deliberately and quite bravely trying to buy a bit of time."

Egg freezing is still rare in Britain but is recognised as a last resort for women who want to preserve their fertility, either because they have had cancer treatment or for social reasons.

Dr Lockwood has seen around 100 women in the last few years who want to freeze their eggs for social reasons.

"With most of the women I see we agree that social egg freezing is not appropriate, either because they've left it too late or because their ovarian reserve is too low. I see it as unethical if you are only going to get three or four eggs because really you need 16, 18, 20 to have a realistic chance of achieving pregnancy. "I would still say a woman up to her mid-30s who wishes to be a genetic mother one day and has not met Mr Right would be much better freezing her eggs than hoping Mr Right turns up before she's 40."

* Scientists are developing a test that could dramatically boost IVF success rates from a single cycle of treatment. The technique, created at Oxford University, checks for chromosomal abnormalities in the developing embryo but also looks at two new markers that could potentially cause pregnancies to fail. Over time, researchers hope they can increase success rates towards the 100 per cent mark. At present, only around 30 per cent of IVF cycles worldwide result in a pregnancy, with many failing due to chromosomal abnormalities.

IN NUMBERS

6,388 According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 6,388 eggs had been frozen up to the end of 2008, for medical as well as social reasons.

£3,500 Midland Fertility Services charges £3,500 for the three-stage freezing process plus £170 annual storage after the first year.

11.9 per cent The clinic has had a licence to freeze eggs for a decade and has carried out 42 cycles of IVF in that time with an 11.9 per cent live birth rate.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions