Women should not put off starting a family until their 40s in the belief they will simply be able to freeze their eggs and have them thawed later, a fertility specialist says.
Australian women are increasingly using assisted reproductive technology treatments, new health data has shown, but doctors warn that the chances of being able to achieve a live birth using a frozen egg were significantly less than from a frozen embryo.
About 3 per cent of Australian babies born in 2009 were conceived with in vitro methods, the 2012 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report says, but the odds of a live birth dropped dramatically for women in their 40s.
For Australian women aged 45 and over using their own eggs, one live delivery resulted from every 800 initiated cycles of IVF in 2009, compared with one live delivery from every four initiated cycles in women aged 25 to 34. Women undergoing assisted reproduction treatment using donor eggs were generally older, the report said, with the average age being 40.8 years.
Bronwyn Devine, from the Canberra Fertility Centre, said it was not really possible to ''buy time'' by freezing a woman's eggs when she was 30 and fertilising them a decade later as success rates were low.
''For years and years we have not got really good results from freezing eggs, whereas embryos survive very well,'' she said. ''So if you take your eggs out at 30 and fertilise them you are buying time but if you are wanting to freeze your eggs at 30 and take them out at 40 because you are having a stellar career, you may as well just wait and try at 40.
''The number of pregnancies in the world is still very very low from freezing eggs. So we encourage women to consider using donor sperm and freeze embryos instead.''
Dr Devine said age was still crucial to a woman's fertility. ''By the time women are in their 40s it's extremely late in reality to get pregnant. The majority of women who come to me in their 40s will not get pregnant via IVF. There is a biological clock and it doesn't matter how beautiful and young you look. You don't make new eggs and your eggs age with you.''
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always
been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such
material available in our efforts to advance understanding of
biotechnology and public policy issues. We believe this constitutes a
'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section
107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section
107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. For more information
go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.