British women are freezing eggs in their 40s. Experts urge caution

The UK Fertility Regulator, the HFEA, says that women in their 40s have only a slim chance of success when freezing their eggs.

This warning comes just as Sienna Miller, who has a nine-year-old daughter, reveals she recently froze her eggs at 40 to “avoid the existential threat” that her fertility was waning

After she shared this news, it has come to light that some British women are freezing their eggs right up to age 50. HFEA figures show that women aged 45 to 50 underwent a record number of egg retrieval cycles in 2019. The number, still low at 23, increased from 20 in 2018 and fewer than 5 in 2014. Their breakdown shows that one of these cycles was done with a 49-year-old woman.

While in some cases these freezing cycles may have been done for medical reasons, such as cancer treatments, some experts fear that clinics are offering the option to women who are, in reality, “too old to benefit from it.”

According to Joyce Harper, a professor of reproductive science at University College London, “egg freezing over age 35 is problematic because of the reduced chance of pregnancy. At 49, it is completely pointless, as those eggs will not lead to a pregnancy.”

She continues, “It’s likely that egg freezing will have about the same success rates as IVF, which is highly age-dependent. The UK data for IVF shows that the chances of getting pregnant over the age of 40 are very slim – 11% for ages 40 to 42 and 5% for ages 43 to 44.”

Ideally, women will freeze their eggs before the age of 35 because the eggs are of higher quality

Of course, this isn’t always possible, for a wide variety of reasons. However, this procedure, which can cost more than £8,000 or up to $17,000 in the US, shouldn’t be recommended to everyone.

Sarah Norcross, with the Progress Educational Trust fertility charity, says, “women aged 40 and above who are considering freezing their eggs need good quality, independent information about their reduced prospects of future success. Clinic marketing materials can give an unrealistically optimistic impression.”

As with any elective medical procedure, patients need to do their research

Norcross continues, “any woman who freezes her eggs at this age… should be aware that their chances of success are lower.”

These statistics didn’t stop Sienna Miller. She says, “I felt pressure about kids, and should I have more, and why haven’t I, and all of that, which is a really loud noise. Biology is incredibly cruel on women in that decade – that’s the headline, or it certainly was for me. Then I got to 40 and I froze some eggs.”

“Having been really focused on the need to have another baby, I’m just like, “If it happens, it happens.” That kind of existential threat has dissipated.”

In closing, the HFEA’s Clare Ettinghausen cautions, ‘choosing to freeze your eggs is a serious undertaking and involves some risk, as well as costs. Freezing your eggs is not a guarantee of having a baby in the future, but the younger you freeze your eggs, the more chances of success.”

What do you think of these statistics? Have you considered freezing your eggs? Let us know in the comment section or email us at mystory@ivfbabble.com.

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