Specialists say fertility techniques that have enabled women with cancer to store eggs should be more widely accessible, so says a new article which has been published in The Lancet.

Whilst at Fertile Matters we welcome widening the debate on fertility preservation issues, we would suggest that those women who are considering this route, should look at the wider considerations before deciding on egg freezing.

We agree that women who have had their fertility tested and have had a poor result, should consider egg freezing and also women who are using annual testing to track their fertility and are seeing a decline, could elect to preserve eggs.

However, this is a complex issue and whilst it makes sense for a woman, who for whatever reason, definitely knows that she wants to start her family as late as possible (in her late thirties to early forties), it might be a sensible option to consider freezing at an earlier age (if you are going to freeze eggs, it’s best to do it as soon as possible, as eggs from a 25 year old are better than from a 35 year old).

But most women, don’t definitively know when they want to start a family and statistically, the average age for a women having her first child in the UK is 29.3 years, still well within the ‘normal’ fertility window.

We would advocate that, generally speaking, it makes more sense for most people to have their fertility tested first, and repeated on an half yearly or annual basis as necessary, before taking the full leap to egg freezing and the subsequent IVF treatment. There is also a considerable cost consideration: fertility testing costs £495 whereas fertility preservation techniques could cost nearer to £5000.

Still an interesting article nonetheless and you can read it here in full:

All women should have the chance to freeze their eggs or ovarian tissue in their 20s or early 30s to avoid having fertility problems if they want to conceive later in life, experts say. More and more women are delaying having a family, perhaps because they have not found the right partner or because of their career. A woman’s fertility declines steeply from around the age of 35, which means that many women in their late 30s and early 40s are attempting IVF, often without success.

Experts writing in a new fertility series in the Lancet medical journal say that techniques that have enabled women with cancer to store eggs and ovarian tissue prior to chemotherapy should now be made widely available to healthy women, to save them from possible distress – and reduce the costs of IVF.

Egg-freezing is already being used by some healthy women as insurance against later fertility problems, says Professor Dominic Stoop, director of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at UZ Brussels. “So far nearly 2,000 babies have been born from frozen eggs, without an increase in the incidence of any birth defects,” he said.

In the UK, however, only 20 babies have yet been born from frozen eggs, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Egg storage has only been available for a few years and was originally offered just to cancer patients. However, there is no rule preventing any woman from having her eggs stored.

A lot of the young professional women do not realize that it is available to them. The majority probably think it is still going to cost me and I probably won’t need it. Like buying insurance, some people will decide to buy a “policy” whilst others will convince themselves that it will never happen to them.

The cost of egg collection, freezing, storage ranges from £3000 to £5000.

Prior to December 2012, around 18,000 eggs had been stored in the UK for patients’ own use, the HFEA said. Around 580 embryos have been created from frozen eggs and there have been 20 live births. But interpreting those figures is not straightforward. Some of the women will have been cancer patients and it is not known how old the women were when they stored their eggs. Different clinics will have different results and may be using different freezing and thawing methods.

The Lancet authors say egg-freezing has a clear future and that women should be told that this option is available. In the long term, egg and ovarian tissue freezing might also help with the problems many countries face of an aging society, they add. “Couples continue to postpone a family until later in life for various economic, educational and social reasons,” says the paper, an expert analysis of research in the field. This trend towards postponement of the first pregnancy has an effect on both family size and the risk of permanent biological childlessness. Consequently, the total fertility rate of most developed countries has dropped below the replacement level, usually deemed to be 2.1 children per woman,” they write.

REFRENCE: Fertility preservation for age-related fertility decline: Stoop, Cobo, Silber: The Lancet, Volume 384, Issue 9950, Pages 1311 - 1319, 4 October 2014