A new study found that few women who freeze their eggs actually end up using them.
Researchers from Australia surveyed nearly 100 women who, between 1999 and 2014, had their eggs frozen as a way to delay childbearing. The researchers found that “just 6 percent of the women had used their frozen eggs at the time of the survey and 3 percent had given birth using the frozen eggs.”
Even though the women didn’t end up using the frozen eggs, some did still give birth. About 1 in 5 participants became pregnant at some point after freezing eggs. In most cases, the women conceived naturally or had undergone in vitro fertilization using new eggs. None of the women in the study had a medical reason for freezing eggs.
Egg freezing has become a popular life planning option for women over the last few years, especially those under the age of 30. Companies like Apple and Facebook now cover the procedure in their employee health plans. The concept and scientific possibility of egg freezing first gained popularity in the 1980s. It suddenly became possible for career-focused women to have babies when they wanted in an effort to continue their corporate climb while putting off family when they were ready. Egg freezing was an expensive endeavor in the Ronald Reagan era, and even today the process ranges in cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 though that price could get slashed in the next few years.
Egg freezing is a lengthy — approximately four to six weeks to complete the egg freezing cycle — and pricey procedure that’s not always successful. Freezing eggs does not guarantee pregnancy success, and studies conducted in Europe on donors under age 30 found that women’s pregnancy success rates ranged from 36 to 61 percent. The chances of pregnancy depend on the age of a woman when she freezes her eggs and the number of eggs frozen.
Researchers at New York Medical College and the University of California, Davis, estimate that a woman who freezes 15 eggs at age 30 has about a 30 percent chance of giving birth to a child if she uses these eggs and a woman who freezes 25 eggs at age 30 has about a 40 percent chance of giving birth to a child. The researchers developed an online calculator to help predict success rates.
The latest Australian study backs up the findings of a fertility clinic in Santa Monica, Calif., published in 2015. The clinic found that 95 percent of the 232 clients from 2007 to 2012 still had not used their eggs by 2015.
It’s important to note, says Live Science, that “many women in the new study had only recently frozen their eggs” and nearly half the women had frozen their eggs within the last two years. This may explain why so few women had used their frozen eggs.
Over 21 percent of the women polled stated they still have plans to use their eggs at some point.