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Women face low success rate

Egg-freeze unadvised, panel says

Kyodo

A panel under the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology will not recommend that young and healthy women preserve their frozen eggs for future pregnancy, citing the health risks and relatively low pregnancy rate, panel sources said.

The decision may stir fresh debate in Japan on egg-freezing not conducted for medical reasons, as it contradicts the stance of another society of reproductive medicine experts and a recent move by a city near Tokyo to set aside funds to support egg preservation by women without dire health problems like cancer.

With the average age of women in Japan giving birth for the first time in 2013 reaching 30.4 years, egg-freezing has drawn increased interest as more women marry and give birth later in life.

The panel is expected to report the opinion at the society’s board meeting Saturday and convey its stance to doctors belonging to it, sources said Wednesday.

The panel says the pregnancy rate with frozen unfertilized eggs is lower than that with frozen fertilized eggs. The process of collecting eggs is also a burden on the body as women take drugs to stimulate ovulation.

Late births using frozen eggs also carry the risk of complications such as hypertension, while the possible effects on the health of babies born from frozen eggs remains uncertain, the panel said, noting that egg-freezing is not recommended regardless of women’s age.

One of the panel members said egg-freezing “will lead to a delay in birth,” and he wants local governments to heed the panel’s view, apparently having in mind the move by Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, to earmark funds to support egg preservation.

But the panel also said it does not intend to prohibit egg-freezing preservation, adding that women and doctors who resort to the measure do so at their own risk.

Last April, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology allowed egg-freezing to be conducted for women before the loss of ovarian function due to cancer treatment or radiation therapy.

Meanwhile, the Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine compiled in 2013 a guideline that allows egg-freezing by women, including those who have no health problems, amid technological advances.

Hideki Shintaku, head of health and welfare division in Urayasu, said Wednesday the city is not encouraging women to freeze eggs with the subsidy, but rather to give them options if they are worried about not getting pregnant in later years.

“If women could freeze their eggs while they are young, it will broaden their chances of getting pregnant later,” he said.