Most “social egg freezers” do not return to clinics to try for pregnancy, research suggests.
Only 7.6% of women who chose to preserve their fertility for social rather than medical reasons end up using their frozen eggs, according to data presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting in Barcelona.
Many women find it “empowering” to boost their chances of one day becoming a genetic mother and undergoing fertility treatment could give them the confidence to find a partner, experts said.
Some women have their eggs frozen before undergoing medical treatments such as chemotherapy, which can damage the ovaries.
However, so-called “social freezers” are motivated for reasons including the lack of a stable partner and desire to pursue a career, not medical reasons.
The researchers used data from the Brussels Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Belgium, one of the biggest fertility centres in Europe.
They analysed the experiences of 563 women who froze their eggs between January 2009 and November 2017 in anticipation of “age-related fertility decline”.
Only 72 (12.8%) have since returned to the clinic for reproduction treatment and of these, just 43 had their eggs thawed, fertilised and transferred, the analysis showed.
The group had a mean age of 36.5 years when their eggs were collected.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director at Midlands Fertility Services, said the data reflects trends in the UK, with most “social freezers” finding themselves in a relationship “within a relatively short space of time”.
She said: “We are very careful not to suggest that freezing eggs is like buying fire insurance – because we can’t guarantee that it’s always going to pay out.
“But many women have said they do find it empowering that they’ve done something that might help the possibility that they will be able to become genetic mothers one day.”
Professor Nick Macklon, medical director at London Women’s Clinic, said: “I think that many women are using this because they want to wait for Mr Right, rather than go with Mr Alright.
“Maybe what this is telling us is that it works for many of them, that having had the confidence to do that, they are finding and they are getting into a relationship.
“What we need to understand is to what extent having had access to this technology has given them that – has empowered them to actually give themselves more opportunities to find a partner they want to settle down with.”
Dr Michel De Vos, who carried out the research, said most “social freezers” who did return to the clinic had found a suitable partner to pursue motherhood.
The data does not indicate “whether their previous decision to undergo oocyte cryopreservation has enhanced the probability of a live birth”, he added.