British Columbia

Trend of 'social egg freezing' prompts Canadian gynecologists to release guidelines for physicians

More women are choosing to delay pregnancy until their 30s, but starting a family later in life comes with the risk of increased infertility which has some women choosing to freeze their eggs.

Women freezing eggs to delay pregnancy should be fully informed on what to expect, doctors say

Canadian gynecologists want to make sure women are fully informed about the risks and rates of success in pregnancy after freezing their eggs as more women are delaying childbearing into their 30s. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

More women are choosing to delay pregnancy until their 30s, but starting a family later in life comes with the risk of increased infertility which has some women choosing to freeze their eggs.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada released a new set of guidelines for clinics that offer the service to highlight the need for upfront counselling on the efficacy of the procedure and to discuss alternatives, specifically for women freezing their eggs with the sole intention of delaying pregnancy or what is being called "social egg freezing."

"People are empowered and looking for something to try and offset the downside of waiting to achieve a pregnancy later in life," said Dr. Niamh Tallon,an infertility and egg freezing specialist at Olive Fertility clinic in Vancouver.

Tallon said that in 2013 the American Society of Reproductive Medicine decided that there was strong evidence to show consistent success with freezing technology. Outcomes were similar to using fresh eggs, and the society encouraged health-care providers to proceed with this as a more widely accessible service.

Patients need proper information

Although the current technology is producing high success rates, she said physicians need to be careful in applying that body of data to this particular method of social freezing. Patients need to be properly informed of their specific circumstances through a thorough consultation, which is where the guidelines factor in for clinics. 

"It's important beforehand to set the stage for what expectations can be, because sometimes it does require more than one cycle of treatment to get to a point where an individual will feel comfortable with their odds of a live birth for the future," she said.

Some women's egg counts may be lower depending on age and physical health, so the likelihood of pregnancy is mainly based on the quantity of eggs that they can retrieve.

Natalie Grunberg froze her eggs at the age of 37 and is now 24-weeks pregnant at 41 years old.

"I didn't delay getting pregnant for any other reason than I couldn't find an appropriate partner … I decided I needed to take my fertility into my own hands and that's when I wanted to opt for the egg retrieval," said Grunberg, who turned to this option to alleviate what she called a "burden" of wanting a child but not having a partner.

"While I knew there were no guarantees, I really felt that taking control, having those eggs frozen and ready for the right time ... that was a big help."

Dr. Tallon will be speaking at the Olive fertility centre in Vancouver on Feb 22 at 6 p.m. to offer more information on social egg freezing and financial options.

To hear the full interview listen to media below:


With files from On The Coast, All Points West

now