To better understand the characteristics of patients who returned to thaw their frozen eggs to attempt conception and their outcomes.
A retrospective analysis of clinical records for all own egg thaw patients in two UK fertility clinics across 10 years, 2008–2017.
There were 129 patients who returned to thaw their eggs, of which 46 had originally frozen their eggs for social reasons and 83 for a variety of clinical, incidental, and ethical reasons (which we have called “non-social”). Women who had frozen their eggs for social reasons were single at time of freeze, with an average age of 37.7. They kept their eggs in storage for just under 5 years, returning to use them at the average age of 42.5. 43.5% were single at time of thaw, and 47.8% used donor sperm to fertilise their eggs. Women whose eggs were frozen for non-social reasons were almost all (97.6%) in a relationship at both time of freeze and thaw. They had an average age of 37.2 at first freeze and 37.6 at thaw, having kept their eggs in storage for an average of 0.4 years. Overall, there was a 20.9% success rate among women attempting conception with frozen-thawed eggs.
Despite widespread assumptions, many women attempting conception with thawed eggs had not initially frozen them for social reasons. Women who froze their eggs for social reasons presented distinctly and statistically different characteristics at both time of freeze and thaw to women whose eggs were frozen for non-social reasons.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Van de Wiel L. For whom the clock ticks: reproductive ageing and egg freezing in Dutch and British news media. Studies in the Maternal. 2014;6(1).
Inhorn, M.C. (2017) The egg freezing revolution? Gender, technology, and fertility preservation in the twenty-first century. In Emerging trends in the social and behavioural sciences. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. Retrieved from: https://marciainhorn.com/wp-content/uploads/etrds0428.pdf.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2012) Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline. https://www.scribd.com/document/339331836/ASRM-2012-Mature-Oocyte-Cryopreservation-A-Guideline
Jones BP, Saso S, Mania A, Smith JR, Serhal P, Ben Nagi J. The dawn of a new ice age: social egg freezing. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2018;97(6):641–7.
O’Brien Y, Martyn F, Glover LE, Wingfield MB. What women want? A scoping survey on women’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards ovarian reserve testing and egg freezing. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2017;217:71–6.
Stoop D, Nekkebroeck J, Devroey P. A survey on the intentions and attitudes towards oocyte cryopreservation for non-medical reasons among women of reproductive age. Hum Reprod. 2011;26(3):655–61.
Cobo A, Kuwayama M, Perez S, Ruiz A, Pellicer A, Remohi J. Comparison of concomitant outcome achieved with fresh and cryopreserved donor oocytes vitrified by the Cryotop method. Fertil Steril. 2008;89:1657–64.
Parmegiani L, Cognigni GE, Bernardi S, Cuomo S, Ciampaglia W, Infante FE, et al. Efficinetcy of aspetic open vitrification and hermetical cryostorage of human oocytes. Reprod BioMed Online. 2011;23:505–5012.
Rienzi L, Romano S, Albricci L, Maggiuli R, Capalbo A, Baroni E, et al. Embryo development of fresh ‘versus’ vitrified metaphase II oocytes after ICSI: a prospective randomized sibling-oocyte study. Hum Reprod. 2010;24:66–73.
Chian R, Huang JYJ, Tan SL, Lucena E, Saa A, Rojas A, et al. Obstetric and perinatal outcome in 200 infants conceived from vitrified oocytes. Reprod BioMed Online. 2008;16(5):608–10.
Cobo A, Serra V, Garrido N, Olmo I, Pellicer A, Remohi J. Obstetric and perinatal outcome of babies born from vitrified oocytes. Fertil Steril. 2014;102(4):1006–15.
Noyes N, Porcu E, Borini A. Over 900 oocyte cryopreservation babies born with no apparent increase in congenital anomalies. Reprod BioMed Online. 2009;18(6):769–76.
Schattman GL. A healthy dose of reality for the egg-freezing party. Fertil Steril. 2016;105(2):307.
Baldwin K, Culley L, Hudson N, Mitchell H, Lavery S. Oocyte cryopreservation for social reasons: demographic profile and disposal intentions of UK users. RBMOnline. 2015;31:239–45.
Inhorn MC, Birenbaum-Carmeli D, Westphal LM, Doyle, Joseph G, Norbert M, et al. Elective egg freezing and its underlying socio-demography: a binational analysis with global implications. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16:70.
XXX Authors (2018) Reconceiving egg freezing: insights from an analysis of five years of data from a UK clinic. RBMOnline,
Carroll K, Kroløkke C. Freezing for love: enacting “responsible” reproductive citizenship through egg freezing. Cult Health Sex. 2018;20(9):992–1005.
Inhorn MC, Birenbaum-Carmeli D, Westphal LM, Doyle J, Gleicher N, Dirnfeld M, Seidman D, Kahane A, Meirow D, Patrizio P (2017) Gender and educational disparities underlying elective egg freezing: results from the first major qualitative study of oocyte cryopreservation in the United States and Israel. Poster presented at: 33rd Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. 2–5 July 2017: Geneva, Switzerland.
Inhorn MC, Birenbaum-Carmeli D, Westphal LM, Doyle, Joseph G, Norbert M, et al. Ten pathways to elective egg freezing: a binational analysis. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2018;35(11):2003–11.
Baldwin K. ‘I suppose I think to myself, that’s the best way to be a mother’: how ideologies of parenthood shape women’s use of social egg freezing technology. Sociol Res Online. 2017;22(2):2.
Baldwin K, Culley L. Women’s experience of social egg freezing: perceptions of success, risks, and ‘going it alone’. Hum Fertil. 2018;1:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1080/14647273.2018.1522456.
Baldwin K, Culley L, Hudson N, Mitchell H. Running out of time: exploring women’s motivations for social egg freezing. J Psychosom Obstet Gynecol. 2018;12:1–8. https://doi.org/10.1080/0167482X.2018.1460352.
Martin LJ. Anticipating infertility: egg freezing, genetic preservation, and risk. Gend Soc. 2010;24(4):526–45.
Myers C, Daily Z, Jain J. Why do so few women return to utilize cryopreserved oocytes?, qualitative insights into elective oocyte cryopreservation. Fertil Steril. 2015;103(2):e30–0.
Jackson E. The ambiguities of “social” egg freezing and the challenges of informed consent. BioSocieties. 2017;13:1–20.
Cobo A, Garrido N, Crespo J, et al. Accumulation of oocytes: a news strategy for managing low-responder patients. Reprod BioMed Online. 2012;23:824–9.
Doody KJ. Cryopreservation and delayed embryo transfer- assisted reproductive technology registry and reporting implications. Fertil Steril. 2014;102:27–31.
Cobo A, Garcia-Velasco JA. Why all women should freeze their eggs. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2016;28(3):206–10.
Argyle CE, Harper JC, Davies MC. Oocyte cryopreservation: where are we now? Hum Reprod Update. 2016;22(4):440–9.
Dondorp W, de Wert G, Pennings G, Shenfield F, Devroey P, Tarlatzis B, et al. Oocyte cryopreservation for age-related fertility loss. Hum Reprod. 2012;27(5):1231–7.
Lockwood GM. Social egg freezing: the prospect of reproductive ‘immortatlity’ or a dangerous delusion? RBMOnline. 2011;23:334–40.
Wise J. UK lifts ban on frozen eggs, vol. 320; 2000. p. 334.
HFEA (2016) Fertility treatment 2014—trends and figures. Human fertilisation and embryology authority. https://www.hfea.gov.uk/media/1783/fertility-treatment-2014-trends-and-figures.pdf
HFEA (2018) Fertility treatment 2014–2018—trends and figures. Human fertilisation and embryology authority. https://www.hfea.gov.uk/media/2544/hfea-fertility-treatment-2014-2016-trends-and-figures.pdf
HFEA (2018) Egg freezing in fertility treatment. Trends and figures: 2010–2016. Human fertilisation and embryology authority. https://www.hfea.gov.uk/media/2656/egg-freezing-in-fertility-treatment-trends-and-figures-2010-2016-final.pdf
Gurtin ZB (2018) Unscrambling HFEA data on egg freezing: where are the missing frozen eggs? BioNews, 943. https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_135010
Doody KJ. Public reporting of assisted reproductive technology cycle outcomes is not simple. Fertil Steril. 2016;105:893–4 Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act of 1992, HR 4773ENR, 102nd Cong (1991-1992). Pub L No. 102-493.
Kulak D, Jindal SK, Oh C, Morelli SS, Kratka S, McGovern PG. Reporting in vitro fertilization cycles to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology database: where have all the cycles gone? Fertil Steril. 2016;105:927–31 e3.
Hammerberg K, Kirkman M, Pritchard N, Hickey M, Peate M, McBain J, et al. Reproductive experiences of women who cryopreserved oocytes for non-medical reasons. Hum Reprod. 2017;32(3):575–81.
Mesen TB, Mersereau JE, Kane JB, Steiner AZ. Optimal timing for elective egg freezing. Fertil Steril. 2015;103(6):1551–6.
Mertes H, Pennings G. Social egg freezing: for better, not worse. RBMOnline. 2011;23(7):824–9.
Jackson E. Social egg freezing and the UK’s statutory storage time limits. J Med Ethics. 2016;42(11):738–41 ISSN 0306-6800.
Gurtin ZB, Smith V, and Ahuja K (2018) The social pioneers of egg freezing are facing tough choices. Bionews, 960.
Inhorn MC, Birenbaum-Carmeli D, Patrizio P. Medical egg freezing and cancer patients’ hopes: fertility preservation at the intersection of life and death. Soc Sci Med. 2017;195:25–33.
Stevenson EL, Gispanski L, Fields K, Cappadora M, Hurt M. Knowledge and decision making about future fertility and oocyte cryopreservation among young women. Hum Fertil. 2019;9:1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/14647273.2018.1546411.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the clinical work undertaken by a large team of clinicians, nurses, and embryologists that has enabled this data analysis to occur. We appreciate the suggestions made by Professor Susan Golombok on earlier drafts and are thankful to Elena Linara-Demakakou for her help with the statistical analyses. We would also like to thank the editor of JARG and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments during the peer review process.
There was no independent funding received for the study.
Conflict of interest
There is no financial or commercial conflict of interest. During the period of research, all authors were working in the clinic from which the data was obtained, although some have now moved to other institutions.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Gürtin, Z.B., Morgan, L., O’Rourke, D. et al. For whom the egg thaws: insights from an analysis of 10 years of frozen egg thaw data from two UK clinics, 2008–2017. J Assist Reprod Genet 36, 1069–1080 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-019-01429-6
- Egg freezing
- Fertility preservation
- Egg thaw