Is so called social freezing, the ability to freeze a woman´s unfertilised egg, a controversial service or a revolution for women? Dr. Valérie Vernaeve, Medical Director at Eugin Clinic in Spain, has positive experience of helping women this way in her clinic. In this blog post she shares her experience and research on the relatively new phenomenon social freezing.
Delaying motherhood trend in developed countries
Delaying motherhood among women of childbearing age is becoming a trend in developed countries. In Spain, for the first time, women have their first child when they have exceeded the age of 321. This is explained by the incorporation of women in the labour market and their career development, but mainly for personal reasons, such as the lack of a partner. All this does little to help women’s fertility, which undergoes a decrease precisely at that age and falls dramatically from the age of 35.
Oocyte vitrification a new possibilityIn view of this situation, the development of the oocyte vitrification technique represents an alternative for these women, who can preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs for a future use. Regarded as the "new female revolution" by the creator of the contraceptive pill, the scientist Carl Djerassi, this technique could help prevent a future scenario in which an estimated 15% of the population will have fertility problems due mainly to delaying motherhood.
Successful, safe and feasible technique
Vitrification is a process that involves flash-freezing the oocytes, thereby cryopreserving them with a survival rate after freezing hitherto unthinkable. Before this technique, it was necessary to collect about 100 oocytes for a successful pregnancy, which made it a very difficult process to freeze these cells.
Today, vitrification is a credible reality that makes it possible to obtain fertilisation and pregnancy rates comparable to those obtained using fresh oocytes2. Recent publications also document that children born of these cycles have the same low birth defect rate as children born after ART3. This makes vitrification a successful, safe and feasible technique.
Supported by the professionals
Vitrification for social reasons has increasing support from professionals worldwide. So much so that in a recent survey of more than 300 professionals from 13 countries, 80% of physicians were in favour of using this technique for social reasons4. Among the same group, six out of ten respondents stated that vitrification for social reasons should be proposed to all young women.
The profile of social egg freezers
Despite its potential, to date, the innovative technique does not have a very heterogeneous user profile. The data says that 96% of these women are university educated and work, and almost a third of them belong to the medical sector5.
And so there is a great deal of work to be done in terms of making this revolutionary technique known. As reproductive health professionals, we must raise awareness of the need to bring forward the age of motherhood whenever possible, or failing that, provide information about the different options that science puts at our service: women need to know that there are resources available that can help them.
Learn more about social freezing and the profile of women utilizing it by watching this presentation by Dr. Vernaeve held at the ESHRE (European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology) meeting in 2014.
1. Documento - Informe "Demografía y Natalidad en España", Instituto de Política Familiar, 2015.
2. Cobo A, Diaz C. Clinical application of oocyte vitrification: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Fertil Steril. 2011 Aug;96(2):277-85. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.06.030. Epub 2011 Jun 30. Review.
3. Cobo A et al. Obstetric and perinatal outcome of babies born from vitrified oocytes. Fertil Steril. 2014 Oct;102(4):1006-1015.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.06.019. Epub 2014 Jul 23.
4. Clinica Eugin, non published data, 2015.
5. Nekkebroeck et al., The profile of a pioneer cohort of 225 women with anticipated.
gamete exhaustion (AGE) opting for oocyte cryopreservation. ESHRE poster P-356, 2013.
The opinions expressed by Vitrolife’s guest bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect Vitrolife's opinions or views.
Written by Dr. Valérie Vernaeve
Our guest blogger Dr. Valérie Vernaeve is the General Medical Director of Eugin Clinic, one of the largest fertility clinics in Europe. She has collaborated with the most prestigious centres in Europe. Currently, she combines treating her patients with taking part in numerous studies related to assisted reproduction that are regularly published in the most prestigious journals in this field such as: Human Reproduction, Fertility and Sterility and Reproductive Bio Medicine online.