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Uncertainty about outcomes
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Uncertainty about outcomes

Gidon Lieberman Whittington Hospital
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First of all I think the term social egg freezing is, is not quite, I don’t know what the word is but it is not quite right because social egg freezing, are we doing this socially because we are doing it in a wider context in society because it is available, because it is a nice thing to do? What does social actually mean? And I think the correct term would be something along the lines of egg freezing when there isn’t a true medical indication. So, if we are talking about, and I will use that term social egg freezing, we’ve got to remember who is driving this?
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Who is actually driving social egg freezing because the HFEA report in 2014 show that in 2013 there were about a thousand cycles of egg freezing out of a total IVF number of cycles of about 60,000. So actually the true numbers of egg freezing cycles is quite low compared to those where there is a true medical indication and that is why with the 60,000. So actually who is driving this? Is this a public requirement and a public desire to have egg freezing? Or is this something being pushed where there is another agenda? And I do wonder increasingly where that push is coming from. Social egg freezing is a relatively new treatment or option.
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And year on year the number of cycles is increasing. So it is probably going to increase more as years go by. Now when I think about a treatment, I think about beginning to end. And egg freezing is, for me part way, along the journey because actually, when people talk about fertility preservation I think in a lot of women’s minds they are actually talking about being able to have a baby. Not the potential to have a baby. So when eggs are frozen that is part way along the journey because when a woman has her eggs frozen she thinks there is a reasonable chance or even a good chance of having a baby at the end of the day.
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And I don’t really know that public collected data are available to confirm that. And the UK figures are certainly not in keeping with that and I think that the numbers of actually babies born from thawed eggs is less than a hundred. And I think it is in the region of 60 to 70 babies. Now that may be for a number of reasons. But whatever those reasons are we can’t say this is like a really successful journey from beginning, egg collection, end, babies born.
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So I acknowledge that it does work and it can work and it is available but is this a really good treatment in that we are able to start at the beginning of the journey and end the journey with good numbers? And I am not so sure about that at the moment.

Dr Gidon Lieberman is a senior clinical lecturer at UCL and a Consultant in Fertility Medicine at The Whittington Hospital. He has extensive experience as a fertility doctor in both the NHS and in the private sector.

In this interview, he outlines his worries with regards to social egg freezing and gives his view on when, and under which circumstances, it might be useful.

One of the challenges that Dr Lieberman raises is the issue of whether the technology is actually reliable enough to provide a good option for women. On this view, what is needed is to look at the whole fertility journey that a woman or a couple might go on, and ask: is the technology really serving their aims?

For discussion: Do a quick web search, about 15 minutes, to see how ‘social egg freezing’ is being discussed in the general media. What images and metaphors are used? You can copy and paste a weblink in your comment if you like, and it will become a live link for others to follow.

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