Around 600 British women a year pay up to Ģ30,000 to freeze their eggs until they want to start a family, as an insurance measure against their declining fertility.
Women in their late 30s and 40s are being given false hope that they can have children later, according to leading fertility experts. Thousands of women across the country are believed to be considering 'social freezing' - having eggs frozen for non-medical reasons - as an option to extend the time they have before starting a family.
AdvertisementOnce it was only for those with severe medical problems. Now the treatment is increasingly offered as 'fertility insurance' by clinics, and it's going to the heart of the debate about motherhood, careers and the work-life balance.
The Fertility Show, which opens in London on 7 November, is expected to attract 4,000 visitors this year, more than ever before. Many of these will be couples and singles on an all-consuming quest to find solutions to a fertility problem. The show will include talks from the top names in fertility, alongside about 100 stands offering guidance on some of the latest options, such as advances in IVF and fertility "MoTs".
One woman, anxious about her fertility, chose to freeze her eggs after a breakup at the age of 36 and writes in the Daily Telegraph: "I may never know if the Ģ14,000 I've spent has bought me time, and I can't pretend it's entirely bought me peace of mind, but it bought me hope, which, at that moment in my life, I really needed."
Clinics encourage women, who do not yet consider themselves ready for children, by claiming a pregnancy rate of up to 60 percent. But an increasing number of experts are concerned that the fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is not making it clear enough to women what their chances of getting pregnant really are.
Clinics claim, however, that technologies have vastly improved in the past two years, leading to better success rates. One of these improvements is the introduction of the flash-freezing 'vitrification' process. It is said to stop destructive ice crystals forming, meaning more eggs survive the thawing process.
Meanwhile Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of Midland Fertility, pointed out that a woman who is 40 will be far more likely to have a successful birth if she uses eggs she had frozen at the age of 32.