As Ali, whose twins Molly and Monty were conceived using her frozen-thawed eggs and donor sperm, explained, she initially froze her eggs because she hoped that she might find someone to have a family with. But as the years passed, she said:
I began to consider solo motherhood. I thought that I would be a good mum and I knew that if I didn't try to have kids using my frozen eggs, then I would always regret it. I will always be grateful to the donor for giving me my children.
Ali's story is heartwarming, especially when one sees her beautiful five-year-old twins. But it is also a story of motherhood against the odds.
With the current success rates, most women who freeze their eggs won't be as fortunate as Ali because egg freezing does not offer any guarantees. Both the number of eggs that are frozen and the age of the woman when she froze them are factors that influence the likelihood of success, but there is also – as with all fertility treatments – an element of chance.
Most of the women who have frozen their eggs have not yet tried to use them. It is likely that many will conceive the natural way, without ever needing to come back to the clinic. Others may change their minds about having children or may, for whatever reason, decide to discard their eggs without using them. But some will simply be waiting for the right circumstances.
In the UK, eggs frozen for social reasons can be stored for up toten years(those for medical reasons can do so for up to 55 years), so we won't have conclusive data on what decisions women make following egg freezing until their storage period has expired. It is likely that more women, especially those who froze their eggs in recent years, will try to use them in the future. As more women come back to clinics, larger studies can and should be conducted, but until then our data provides the most comprehensive insight available and should be used to help women make better-informed decisions.
Ali notes that although she thinks egg freezing gave her 'an amazing opportunity', she didn't realise how hard it would be to conceive until she came back to use her eggs. 'It took all 27 eggs I had frozen to have my twins, so it was a close call,' she says. 'I was almost starting to panic!'
While I know that egg freezing can be a positive option for some women and strongly believe that all women should be supported in making the reproductive choices that best suit them, I think we need to be clearer about the real likelihood of this technology leading to future motherhood.