The cryopreservation (freezing or vitrification) of eggs offers great hope of being able to delay motherhood and beat the biological clock. Although women's fertility declines with age, more and more women are putting off having children. Can egg freezing deliver on its promise?
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's latest report on fertility trends and figures includes, for the first time, a section on egg freezing. It shows that the number of women freezing their eggs has increased substantially in the UK – especially since vitrification, which is thought to be more effective than slower freezing techniques, has become widely available – and that this figure continues to increase year on year. However, the proportion of frozen eggs that are being thawed and used in treatment remains low. In the past 15 years, fewer than 60 babies have been born to patients freezing and thawing their own eggs, whether for medical or non-medical reasons.
These figures may be modest but the debate has become big, especially when it comes to cryopreservation for non-medical reasons – so-called 'social egg freezing'. Some argue that the possibility of delaying motherhood means winning the battle for gender equality, while others argue the opposite. The likelihood of being able to conceive with thawed eggs is also fiercely debated, in light of the data that has emerged to date.
This podcast, produced by Sandy Starr, documents a debate on these questions entitled 'Can Women Put Motherhood on Ice?'. The debate was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET), the charity that publishes BioNews, and was supported by the Scottish Government.
Listen to the podcast using the player below.
|Sarah Norcross: Introduction from the organisers
|Professor Jane Norman: Introduction from the chair
|Professor David Baird: A medical perspective
|Dr Sarah Martins Da Silva: A medical perspective
|Dr Ainsley Newson: An ethical perspective
|Dr Angel Petropanagos: An ethical perspective
|Questions and comments from the audience
|Concluding remarks by the chair and organisers