Why so many women are considering freezing their eggs

New study reveals widespread fears and confusion about fertility - and a lack of ‘stable partners’

Egg freezing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Almost half of all women aged 18 to 24 would consider freezing their eggs in the future, and 25% are worried about their ability to conceive, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) surveyed a total of 1,002 women between the ages of 18 and 65. The poll findings reveal “widespread fears among those hoping to start a family one day”, along with confusion about fertility issues, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Three out of five women interviewed felt overwhelmed by the amount of information on offer about fertility, and more than three-quarters were unsure whether they advice they had received was impartial.

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A total of 49% of all the respondents were or had worried about their ability to conceive, while 44% of women in the youngest age group said they would be willing to freeze their eggs in order to preserve their fertility.

Egg freezing is one of the fastest growing fertility trends in the UK, according to the London Women’s Clinic.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reports that the rate of egg freezing has increased each year since 1999 and more than doubled since 2013.

The HFEA advises that women who may want to consider this option include those with a medical condition that could affect their fertility, and those at risk of injury or death - for example, if they are in the Army.

However, egg freezing is “by no means a guarantee of having a baby”, the independent regulator warns.

All the same, an increasing number of women are going ahead with the procedure, triggering speculation about their motives.

Kylie Baldwin, a senior sociology and health lecturer at Leicester’s De Montfort University, led a team who interviewed 31 women undergoing elective egg freezing. The researchers found that “contrary to what many people believe, women don’t freeze their eggs for career reasons”, says Baldwin.

“They freeze them because they need more time to find a suitable partner, to avoid future regret and to prevent engaging in what we have called ‘panic partnering’,” she writes in an article on The Conversation.

Baldwin says that all the women interviewed had “reported feeling under significant pressure to find a partner before they reached the end of their fertile lives, but explained how the men they met were often unwilling to settle down or commit to fatherhood”.

This finding was backed up by those of a separate study outlined on the website of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. US researchers said that while medical literature and media coverage “suggest that elective egg freezing is being used to defer or delay childbearing among women pursuing education and careers”, the key motive of the women interviewed for their study was “the lack of a stable partner”.

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