What is the nature of the relational status, reproductive choices and possible regret of a pioneer cohort of women that either considered or actually performed oocyte banking for anticipated gamete exhaustion (AGE)?
Only half of the women who banked oocytes anticipate using them in the future but the experience with oocyte banking is overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of AGE bankers preferring to have it performed at a younger age.
Most women who choose to cryopreserve oocytes for the prevention of age-related fertility decline are single and are hoping to buy time in their search for a suitable partner. The question of why some candidates actually embark on such treatment while others eventually prefer not to freeze remains unclear. There are no follow-up data available either on post-freezing changes in relational status, or on attitude towards the undergone treatment and the reproductive outcome.
A retrospective cohort study was performed with 140 women who visited the outpatient clinic between 2009 and 2011. All women (mean age 36.7 ± SD 2.62) considered oocyte preservation for age-related infertility. At least 1 year after their initial visit (range 12-45 months), women were contacted by phone to participate in a standardized questionnaire developed to evaluate their actual relational and reproductive situation, their attitude towards banking and future reproductive plan.
Eighty-six women (61.4%) completed at least one cryopreservation cycle. The non-bankers included 54 women who either preferred no treatment (n = 51) or attempted stimulation but cancelled because of poor response (n = 3). The response rate among bankers was 75.4% (65/86) while 55.8% (29/52) of the non-bankers were reached for interview.
Among bankers, 50.8% of women think they will use the oocytes at some point, while 29.2% indicated that they currently consider the use of frozen oocytes less likely than anticipated at time of oocyte retrieval. However, although 95.4% would decide to do it again, the majority (76.0%) would prefer to do it at a younger age. Among bankers, 96.1% would recommend the treatment to others. Women who banked accept a higher maximum age for motherhood when compared with non-bankers (43.6 versus 42.5 years; P < 0.05). Almost all bankers and 89.6% of the non-bankers still have a desire for a child. Bankers and non-bankers did not differ in terms of experiencing steady relations (47.7 versus 55.2%), attempting conception (35.4 versus 44.8%) and not conceiving within 1 year (17.4 versus 15.4%).
The study has a limited follow-up of 1-3 years and therefore does not provide information on the reproductive outcome of the cryopreserved oocytes. Although most women appear to be realistic about their chances of pregnancy, the outcome of such treatment could affect the attitude of women towards the treatment. Furthermore, the findings of non-bankers cannot be generalized to the general population because the control group of non-bankers in this study actually visited a centre as a potential candidate for banking.
Bankers and non-bankers have a surprising congruent relational status and reproductive choices, indicating that freezing oocytes does not appear to influence the life choices of the women. The study provides insights into the important psychological aspect of reassurance associated with preventive oocyte banking, expressed by high satisfaction after banking in combination with a decreased intention of ever using the eggs.