Two of Britain’s leading fertility clinics are to offer egg freezing so that women can delay having children until well into their 40s. Until recently, there were few successful pregnancies from frozen eggs. But with the development of a new technique, vitrification, it is claimed that chances of an IVF pregnancy are comparable to using fresh eggs — about 30 to 40%.
The clinics’ motive is openly more commercial than medical. Formerly it was offered to women who might lose their fertility because of cancer treatment. But they see it as an expansion of consumer choice.
Dr Simon Fishel, managing director of Care Fertility, says that “People are going to say how disgraceful that women can go on and have their careers and not worry about having a family until they are 40 years of age… But the tragedy for women is that, if a man decides in his mid-forties that his career is established and he wants to settle down and have a family, he can do that. But the poor women is faced with the prospect that this is not going to be possible for her. I believe this new technology makes it ethical for us to offer egg freezing to all women.”
And Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, of Bridge Fertility Clinic, says that it will be very useful for women “for personal and social reasons rather than for medical reasons”.
But Josephine Quintavalle, of the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, points out that all IVF treatment involves medical risks. “To imagine that IVF can be an alternative to natural reproduction for healthy women is an absurdity,” she says. “The chances of children having grandparents becomes ever more remote. This will undermine the whole structure of society.”
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