Iced fertility is an issue far from being an answer to a prayer. For instance, in the UK the total of the babies born from frozen eggs is under two dozen. Not very many, is it?
Probably this bit of information was partly responsible for recent unexpected announcement from Apple and Facebook – who decided to pay a sum of $20.000 to those of their female employees who will agree to have their cells frozen.
The reason behind this announcement is fairly clear: egg preservation, known as “cryopreservation,” is likely to assist ladies with furthering their careers giving them the chance of having children later on in life – whenever they choose.
Though, there is no prevailing opinion on the issue. While some people hail it as a progressive idea bringing more freedom of choice, others claim that people shouldn’t take on what they consider to be God’s own work. Both these opinions – says obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Irene Gafson – tend to disregard the medical side of the question.
Facilitating fertility with the help of frozen eggs is a comparatively recent medical procedure, originally undertaken for the purpose of preserving the fertility of women scheduled for some kinds of cancer treatment. In some cases egg harvesting has been done with women with fertility problems who had a surplus of eggs. For a long time it was restricted to purely medical situations and has become a “social decision” only in late years.
The point is, while society is embracing the egg-freezing solution, not many people realize that there is absolutely no guarantee of it working the way it’s believed to.
Here’s what the official report from HFEA, the UK’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, an independent regulator of embryo usage, says. Before the year 2013 patients in the UK stored approximately 18,000 eggs for future use. This stock produced almost 600 embryos only. They were transferred to women in a matter of 160 cycles.
The result came to 20 live births. Out of the total, it gives the woman who wants to make use of her frozen eggs stock only a 12.5 per cent possibility of conceiving. This is hardly a result worth raving about.
Consequently, women who can have babies naturally while they’re young, will be ill-advised to put their trust in cryopreservation. It goes without saying that scientists are doing their best to make the process more reliable. The new “fast freeze” technology is expected to show a better success rate, but it doesn’t increase the statistics now.
Returning to the Apple & Facebook offer, it is clear that the women to benefit by it most are solely single ones younger than 35 years old (when the eggs are at their best) who intend to have children later in life.
Such women have certain grounds to lay their hopes in IVF despite the low odds it holds.
Speaking of odds, a far better way would be to freeze an embryo, a fertilized egg. Women should consider freezing eggs treated with donor sperm which carries a higher guarantee of a live birth.
The one thing the corporate scheme can result in – and the more so if it gets caught on and employed by other companies as well – is that the child-bearing age will increase. The statistics already show that in England and Wales the number of 30 and older mothers is climbing up to reach the number of mothers of the age around 20. What seems to be a “perk” of egg freeze now can dramatically bring up the age of mothers in the population.
Well, there are plenty of women who give birth when they are 40 or older, naturally and with the aid of frozen embryos, their pregnancies running smoothly and ending successfully – but then again, let’s consider the risk involved. As the woman gets on the wrong side of 35, the risks of problems like miscarriage, stillbirth, conditions aggravated by diabetes or high blood pressure, are on the rise – and the employers ought to have taken it into consideration before they put forward schemes like this.
There is also the financial side to be considered. Storage of frozen eggs is a costly affair – and what if the woman quits work? Will she be able to afford the storage payment, or the whole thing will go up in the air?
So, summing up the scientific and financial shortcomings, are employers totally justified to hold out such proposals, and should employees agree readily hoping for the best? There can’t be a clear-cut positive answer to that.