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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsEgg freezing is a process that involves multiple injections of hormones to produce more than one egg within a cycle so that the ovaries will produce multiple eggs in order for the clinician to retrieve those eggs and then freeze them. 40% of infertility is male factor infertility and men should also be making plans to think about planning their future for having children. Lifestyles are very different now men are waiting much later as well as women. And they have just as much of an incidence of chromosomal abnormality in future offspring if they wait too late. There is a myth that men can have children till they are 70 and yes, they can.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsBut the 70 year olds who had children before had a very different lifestyle to the 30 year olds that are delaying at the moment. Our expectations of women have changed. Our expectations of ourselves have changed. We are now expected to have a family, to have a career and something always gets left behind. So I think when planning it should be important that while planning your career, you plan your family and if that means preserving your fertility for when you are ready to have a child then I think it is important to consider that or at least to be aware. It is easy to consider egg freezing as an option of insurance.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsAnd just like any insurance policy you are not sure whether it will pay out, it depends on your age, the number of eggs that they retrieve and the quality of those eggs. It then depends on the factors afterwards. Whether or not they are going to be able to thaw these eggs successfully and if they do they still have to fertilize these eggs. An embryo has to be grown. It has to go back inside the woman and be carried for 9 months. It is a long process to find out and it is also very laden with problems that could occur. Egg freezing is not the ultimate solution.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsIt offers you choices, certainly, but it is a complicated answer to what could be quite a simple question. I think equipping yourself with the knowledge that you have a reduced reproductive life is the first step. Being aware of the steps that you can take to check your fertility is the next step. And also being aware that this may not be a solution for you. And you may not be guaranteed to have a child. I think many people see it as the ultimate insurance policy that will guarantee them a child and nothing will ultimately guarantee you a child. With regards companies offering a plan to freeze your eggs for free, there are a number of questions that are raised with this.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 secondsYou might say that it offers autonomy to the female employees but also, they may feel bound by that company to stay with that company because they have paid for their freezing and their fertility. And so what happens if you decide you don’t want to work for that company anymore? Equally you might say that the company has just as much of an onus on it to provide childcare facilities for people with children. So instead of saying, “we don’t want you to have a child now, nor do we want you to have it in the next 10 years of your employment here” it should also be saying, “great, we know you are going to have a child.

Skip to 3 minutes and 16 secondsYou are whichever age and say in 9 months you will need childcare facility. You will also need maternity leave. You might need paternity leave,” offering the employees instead of a delay; you are offering the opportunity to have a child worry free. Women should take their healthcare in their hands and go speak to their GP but take it further than that once you have spoken to your GP and you have made a decision. Go speak to the people at the clinic. Go see where you might have that procedure. See if you are still interested in having the procedure. Talk to the professionals who will do it. Look at the services that they offer and the prices that they offer them at.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 secondsYou are not going to get the same level of service everywhere you go. Make the decision yourself. Do the research. Find out what you will be going through. In practical terms having injections of hormones will change your mood, will change your outlook. You may have fears and you may even be frightened of needles. It is not so simple as freezing your eggs. There is a whole procedure that goes behind this. I would want to know step-by-step what I was going to go through and what it would mean for me as a patient and as a person.

Not a straightforward option

We next meet Dr Helen O’Neill, a scientist and teaching fellow at UCL’s Institute for Women’s Health. She gives her views on egg freezing as a technology and the current societal pressures on women.

Helen starts by questioning the notion of egg freezing as an insurance policy. It can work well for some people, but what if it doesn’t work out. The current pregnancy statistics following egg freezing, which at best achieves a 50-60 per cent success rate, do not offer any kind of guarantee, a point raised by the fertility providers themselves.

In the second half of her interview, Helen discusses the practice of some companies, which offer egg freezing as an option to their female employees. According to some reports, as many as 1 in 20 technology companies in London currently offer egg freezing as a ‘perk’ to employees.

Helen suggests that there might be better ways in which companies could support women and couples with family planning, and that egg freezing is not the solution to a complex problem of balancing careers and family life.

Finally, Helen suggests that women would benefit from exploring all the options, getting as much information as possible and to make up their own minds about what’s best for them.

For discussion: What do you think about the practice of companies like Google and Facebook to offer egg freezing as an option for their female employees? Whatever your position, please give your reasons. How informed do you think young women and men are about their fertility?

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This video is from the free online course:

Making Babies in the 21st Century

UCL (University College London)