A study carried out by London Egg Bank looking into the motivations of women who have joined the ‘Freeze and Share’ programme, confirmed a long-held belief that altruism is the leading factor for participating.
The survey, carried out in the beginning of 2021, looked into the motivations for women who partook in the London Egg Bank ‘Freeze and Share’ programme, which sees a woman undergoing egg freezing for no cost, in return for donating a portion of her collected eggs to other women in need. These women are often unable to produce their own healthy eggs due to advanced age or conditions like early menopause, and are therefore in need of donor eggs to start their family.
It has been over 20 years since London Women’s Clinic, the partner fertility clinic to London Egg Bank, launched their ‘Egg Sharing IVF’ programme which involves a woman donating her eggs to others, and in return receiving subsidised IVF treatment. Many studies during the intervening years have shown that altruism and a strong desire to help women less fortunate than themselves was compelling motivator for those taking part.
Whilst the end results for women in the London Egg Bank ‘Freeze and Share’ programme are a little different, their motivations remain the same. Women undergoing freezing and sharing are not biologically infertile and seeking treatment themselves, but are fertile women simply preserving their fertility options for the future. This has been enabled much by the incredible advances in freezing eggs and the latest vitrification techniques, which ensure the safety and viability of eggs. As a result, the process has become much more routine and straightforward.
“Sharing eggs with someone was an important factor. It was easier to go through a challenging situation when not only myself would benefit.”
Demographically, the survey found that most women were fully employed (87%) with university degrees (78%), and were 30-35 years old (67%).
More insightfully, the survey also found that for the majority of women (69%), they named both self-help and the desire to help others as their reason for joining the ‘Freeze and Share’ programme, with only 14% of women listing the financial support for themselves as their reason for joining.
This altruistic desire to help others was further highlighted in the feedback from the respondents, who chose to detail their reasons for participating. One woman claimed that she and her partner were “really happy we had the possibility to help another family and pay less to create our own.” Another said that “helping other women to conceive is the best gift I could ever make.”
The large majority of participants said that their treatment was “excellent” or “good”, with 84% stating that they “felt confident” about the procedures and freezing technology used.
Dr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, Medical Director
Around half of respondents said that they planned to use their frozen eggs within 10 years, which, at the time of the survey, was the current legal limit on egg storage for social egg freezing. However, since then it has been proposed that this limitation will be extended to 55 years for social freezers; a new law that has long been wished for and is expected to come into effect in the next few years.
“This new law will give egg freezers much more flexibility and ease when it comes to their fertility options”, said Dr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, Medical Director of London Women’s Clinic, “and help circumvent the ticking clock of fertility that egg freezing is designed to put on hold.” In his 2018 paper published in the RBMO, ‘The UK’s Anomalous 10-year Limit on Oocyte Storage: time to change the law’, Dr Bowen-Simpkins articulated the need for the storage limit to be reviewed.
Social egg freezing is still a relatively new procedure and therefore there are many questions that remain unanswered.
As one respondent said in the survey, they desired “a bit more clarity about the actual costs involved, and then some more information on how many eggs will survive the fertilisation process and be suitable for implantation.” Both London Egg Bank and London Women’s Clinic strive to be upfront and transparent when it comes to the cost of treatment and even clearer about the outcome of treatments so that patients are able to have realistic expectations.
Our own evidence suggests that more than 90% of vitrified eggs will survive freezing and thawing and that IVF with frozen eggs can be just as successful as treatment with eggs that are freshly collected. Although, there is not enough evidence yet that can accurately measure the optimal number of eggs needed to be collected in different age groups, in order to offer the best chance at pregnancy.
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Director of Operations of London Egg Bank.