What are the reproductive experiences of women who cryopreserve oocytes for non-medical reasons?
One in three women had been pregnant at some stage in their lives and while most still wanted to have a child or another child, very few had used their stored oocytes, predominantly because they did not want to be single parents.
The number of healthy women who freeze oocytes to avoid age-related infertility is increasing. Evidence about reproductive outcomes after oocyte cryopreservation for non-medical reasons is needed to help women make informed decisions.
A cross-sectional survey was carried out. Study packs which included a self-administered questionnaire were mailed by clinic staff to 193 eligible women.
Women who had stored oocytes for non-medical reasons at Melbourne IVF, a private ART clinic, between 1999 and 2014 were identified from medical records and invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire about their reproductive histories and experience of oocyte cryopreservation.
A total of 10 survey packs were returned to the clinic marked 'address unknown'. Of the 183 potential respondents, 96 (53%) returned the questionnaire. One respondent provided only free-text comments, thus data from 95 respondents were compiled. The mean age at the time of freezing oocytes was 37.1 years (SD ± 2.6, range: 27-42) and the average number of oocytes stored was 14.2 (SD ± 7.9, range: 0-42); 2% had attempted to store oocytes but had none suitable for freezing, 24% had stored <8 oocytes, 35% had 8-15, 25% had 16-23 and 14% had stored >23 oocytes. About one-third of respondents (34%) had been pregnant at some point in their lives. Six women (6%) had used their stored oocytes and three of them had given birth as a result. The main reason for not using stored oocytes was not wanting to be a single parent. Of the 87 (91%) women who still had oocytes stored, 21% intended to use them while 69% indicated that their circumstances would determine usage. The mean number of children respondents would ideally have liked to have was significantly higher than the number of children they expected to have (2.11 versus 1.38, P < 0.001).
The limitations are inherent to any anonymously completed questionnaire: participation bias, missing data and the possibility that some questions or response alternatives may have been ambiguous.
The findings add to the very limited evidence about the reproductive outcomes experienced by women who freeze oocytes for non-medical reasons and can be used to help women make informed decisions about whether to store oocytes.
The study was funded by Melbourne IVF. K.H. has received honoraria from Merck-Serono, J.M. is a clinician at Melbourne IVF, F.A. is a Melbourne IVF employee, J.F. is supported by a Monash Professorial Fellowship and the Jean Hailes Professorial Fellowship which receives funding from the L and H Hecht Trust, managed by Perpetual Trustees Pty Ltd. M.K., N.P., M.H., M.P. and C.B. have no competing interests.