Turns out the desire for fertility preservation options isn’t an American phenomenon.
A new report distributed by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority) explores the data from fertility treatments across the United Kingdom in 2014. In the UK, fertility practices are required to hand over information about the number of treatments they provide and their success rates, making it easy to identify trends and success rate improvements—albeit in much smaller numbers than here in the United States (which makes sense, since we have nearly 5 times the population of the UK, or 318.9 million to their 64.1 million).
The numbers show that egg freezing is on the rise in the UK. Just 15 years ago, in 2001, only 29 women underwent the egg freezing procedure. But this new report shows that, as of 2014, 816 women chose to put their eggs on ice. That’s an increase of over 2,000% in 15 years, and it’s up 25% from just a year before, 2013. As a result of this increase, the HFEA has included egg freezing in its annual report for the very first time.
The HFEA cautioned that the number of women freezing their eggs is still low, and that, because of the nature of egg freezing, women who choose the procedure don’t thaw their eggs and attempt pregnancy for several years—so data on live births from egg freezing in the UK is pretty scarce. (Not so here in the United States. A 2015 study of over 2000 in vitro fertilization cycles using frozen eggs indicated a live birth rate of over 43%.)
But the report does give us some interesting info to work with.
Firstly, it gives us a little insight into why women freeze their eggs. Women weren’t required to disclose their reasons when meeting with a doctor to discuss egg freezing, but those who did indicated that the lack of a partner was the most common reason to pursue the procedure. This reflects studies here in the US as well, and counteracts that tired stereotype of the “cold,” business-minded egg-freezer who chooses career over family.
The HFEA also reports that most women freezing their eggs between 2001 and 2014 were between 35 and 40 years old. We know that egg quality is best for women under 35, and that around age 35, fertility rates start to drop pretty rapidly. That’s why our doctors—and most experts—suggest women freeze between ages 27 and 35.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen numbers like this. In a recent article by Tammy Sun that recounts her own egg freezing experience, she reports that her doctor told her “not to worry” about her fertility until she was 38. This bolsters our determination to provide women—and their doctors—with the facts they need to make the best possible decisions for their future, before their fertility becomes a concern.
British women aren’t alone in exploring fertility preservation options: women in Japan, women in India, and women all over the globe are tackling taboos to express interest in egg freezing and the choices it gives them. We’re excited for the future, and for the international cohort of superwomen we’re anticipating.