Women are freezing eggs because they cannot find secure relationships, rather than to delay having children while they pursue a career, a new study suggests
Of those who opt to preserve eggs for social reasons, most do so due to concerns over “lack of stable partnerships with men committed to marriage and parenting”, according to researchers at Yale University.
Many people wrongly believe women preserve their eggs for “frivolous” reasons, experts said, branding UK law which requires “so-called ‘social egg freezers’” to use them within ten years as “cruel”.
The research was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual meeting in Barcelona by Dr Marcia Inhorn.
Dr Inhorn, an anthropologist at Yale University, said: “The medical literature and media coverage of oocyte cryo- preservation usually suggest that elective egg freezing is being used to defer or delay childbearing among women pursuing education and careers.
“Our study, however, suggests that the lack of a stable partner is the primary motivation.”
The researchers examined interviews with 150 women, from four IVF clinics in the US and three in Israel, who had completed at least one cycle of egg freezing for social (as opposed to health) reasons.
More than four in five (85 per cent) did not have partners at the time.
Career planning was the least common reason given for having their eggs frozen, even among women who worked for companies where egg freezing insurance was offered.
The 15 per cent of women with partners were either in new or uncertain relationships, with a man not ready or refusing to have children, or with a partner with multiple other partners.
Dr Inhorn said: “Most of the women had already pursued and completed their educational and career goals, but by their late 30s had been unable to find a lasting reproductive relationship with a stable partner. This is why they turned to egg freezing.”
Commenting on the findings, Dr Virginia Bolton, an officer of the British Fertility Society, said: “I think we still have in society at large this misapprehension that women are freezing eggs for frivolous reasons, because they’d much rather have a career and buy Gucci handbags and earn lots of money working in banks than actually embarking on parenthood.”