Access to IVF may serve as 'fertility insurance' for women, making them more inclined to delay motherhood and focus on their career, a study has suggested.
The study evaluated the impact of increased access to IVF on women's career investment in Israel. Using census data, it found that the country's national health insurance policy, which provides free access to IVF and other assisted reproduction technologies (ART), encouraged young women to marry later and pursue increased levels of education.
'The extended later-life fertility offered by this policy was responsible for a third of a year's increase in first-marriage age, a three percent increase in college completion and an almost four percent increase in graduate school completion,' the researchers said, presenting their findings at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Mannheim, Germany.
Israel's health insurance policy was first introduced in 1994 and made access to fertility treatment services freely available to citizens. Estimates indicate this resulted in increased use of ART with four percent of country's population currently born through IVF, compared to around one percent of live births in the USA.
The authors of the study — Naomi Gershoni of the Eitan Berglas School of Economics, Tel Aviv University, Israel and Dr Corinne Low of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA — suggest that the policy provided a level of insurance against age-related decline in fertility.
'By giving people a form of insurance against later life infertility, women who wanted to pursue a career were able to do so without having to worry as much about whether this would prevent them from having a family,' they noted.
Previous reports show that the number of single women using fertility clinics in the UK have tripled in the past decade, with an increase of 20 percent observed in one year (reported in BioNews 815).
Gershoni and Dr Low opine that the impact of access to ART on women's willingness to make career investments and delay starting a family may be comparable to the 1970s advent of the birth control pill which enabled women avoid pregnancies during their early twenties.
'Policies that protect against later life infertility can have far-reaching impact, beyond merely increasing actual usage of [ART],’ the authors report.
'This is especially relevant as companies consider funding for employees to freeze their eggs as well as other fertility-extending measures, and policy-makers consider the need for public funding of infertility treatments,' they added.
Apple and Facebook are two companies that have reportedly offered egg freezing as a job perk for their female workforce (reported in BioNews 776).