Letter: Egg freezing is not perfect, but then neither is the alternative

Disclosure practices on fertility websites are notoriously subpar (“The fertility industry may be offering women false hope”, Opinion, January 6). But bad explanations do not a bad product make. Let’s not throw egg freezing out with the bathwater.

People are now healthcare consumers, facing difficult choices. Getting credible information is hard, since advertisers aim to influence, not inform. Still, when shopping for a mortgage, a blow dryer, or egg freezing, consumers cannot solely decide based on sweet talk.

Your columnist Elaine Moore draws on data from the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that show that in 2016 the birth rate among those who had undergone fertility treatment using their own thawed eggs was just 18 per cent. According to reports published later, one in three or four women who froze their eggs at the age of 37-8 will have a birth.

The prevailing option — postponing a desired birth to your 40s, and using the “eggs du jour” — offers a lower chance. According to the large UK database, delivery rates following a series of IVF treatments at the age of 40-42 are 31 per cent per women. This declines to 20 per cent for women at the of age 43, and 4 per cent at 44-5. Beyond that, chances are negligible.

Therefore, although it does not guarantee certainty of birth, egg freezing, even at the age of 37-8, offers a better chance than having fertility treatments beyond the age of 42.

But freezing can occur earlier. A large-scale 2018 study of over 6,000 women shows that for those who froze eggs before they reached 35, success rates were as high as 69 per cent. Like any insurance, it pays to start early.

Insurers and employers who really want to support women’s fertility chances should offer this procedure when it is most effective. Behavioural economics has in its toolkit nudges — a gentle push in the right direction — right, that is, for both the individual and society.

Attaching colonoscopies for those patients aged 50 certainly provides a powerful nudge. By choosing, say, the age of 33 for egg freezing, the hopes can be less false.

Professor Talya Miron-Shatz
Ono Academic College, Israel
Visiting Researcher, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication University of Cambridge, UK

Dr Avi Tsafrir
Shaarei Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel

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