The age at which women are first becoming mothers in England and Wales as well as many other Western countries has risen significantly in recent decades (Ní Bhrolcháin and Toulemon, 2005; Kreyenfeld, 2010). The average age of a women at the birth of her first child is now 28.6 years and over half of all live births in England and Wales are to mothers aged 30 and over (ONS, 2016). This shift towards older motherhood is of concern given a women’s fertility declines significantly with age (Balasch, 2010). Women are most fertile in their teens and 20s, however their fertility starts to decline in their 30s. By the time a woman is 40 the risk of her experiencing a miscarriage overtakes the chance of a live birth as there is an increased risk of a chromosome abnormality occurring within the embryo, resulting in chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome (Heffner, 2004). Despite the risks posed to mother and child, the shift to older motherhood shows little sign of abating and it is in this context that a new form of fertility preservation has emerged: social egg freezing.
When it was first developed in the late 1980s, egg freezing was a strategy which enabled women to preserve a number of healthy unfertilised eggs when faced with the threat of infertility due to a medical condition or medical treatment. As the clinical techniques of egg freezing developed, the application and marketing of this technology has become increasingly diversified to include use for non-medical reasons. This is commonly referred to as ‘social egg freezing’, and is usually conceived of as a means of allowing women to ‘defer’ childbearing.
Building on the findings of qualitative research examining women’s motivations for, and experience of, social egg freezing undertaken by Dr Kylie Baldwin for her PhD, this collaborative research project seeks to collect further quantitative data on the attitudes and experiences of women who have undergone social egg freezing. Using an online survey tool, this research seeks to further understand women’s motivations for social egg freezing, their experience of the procedure, and their current and future reproductive intentions with a view to better understand the needs of service users.
For more information, and to take part, please follow the link: https://ifwh.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_06eqKZAHTbTcCoJ
Dr Kylie Baldwin - Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University
Prof Joyce Harper - Institute for Women’s Health, University College London