‘Freeze and share’ egg programme

Women can freeze eggs for free, if they give half away

Women wishing to freeze their eggs to delay motherhood for lifestyle reasons may now be able to do so for free, as long as they are willing to give up half of those eggs to infertile couples.

Advances in egg-freezing technology mean that the treatment is now offered to women for non-medical reasons, having previously largely been restricted by doctors to those left infertile by, for example, chemotherapy. But egg-freezing is expensive, at around £5,000 per treatment, leaving it out of the reach of many women. To overcome this, the Bridge Centre in central London is now offering a ‘freeze and share’ deal where women can freeze their eggs for free as long as they donate half of those eggs to infertile couples.

Nataly Atalla, deputy medical director at the Bridge, tells the Sunday Times: ‘We know egg-freezing is now a serious consideration for many women up to the mid-thirties who, in their current lifestyle, are not yet ready for motherhood for various reasons. ‘We are equally aware that a proportion of the inquirers find difficulty in meeting the costs of £4,000-£5,000. Our ‘freeze and share’ programme overcomes this issue and provides other women with the opportunity of motherhood.’

To qualify, women will need to be under 35 and capable of producing eggs with the assistance of relatively low levels of drugs. Women who go for the deal would undergo three cycles of treatment to stimulate the production of eggs, and an operation to retrieve them. The egg-freezing technology, called vitrification has been used in more than 100,000 procedures around the world with 90% to 95% of eggs surviving the freezing process. Vitrification has resulted in pregnancy rates of 30 to 40%, comparable with the use of fresh eggs.

The offer is likely to be controversial, however, for exploiting young and emotionally vulnerable women with limited wealth by persuading them to give up their eggs in exchange for treatment when they would not otherwise have been willing ever to do so.

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