• Kyodo

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A hospital has authorized freezing the eggs of four women for future pregnancies, paving the way for Japan’s first municipality-subsidized ova freezing aimed at combating population decline, sources say.

The city of Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture plans to budget ¥90 million for subsidies over three years through March 2018 to help female residents preserve their eggs for future pregnancy attempts.

The Urayasu Municipal Government began egg-freezing research in July 2015 jointly with Juntendo University’s Urayasu Hospital in the hope of slowing population decline.

At a meeting Thursday, the hospital’s ethics committee approved freezing eggs removed from four women, the sources said.

The freezing of human eggs was originally begun to help women who faced sterility from cancer treatment or other reasons. But some healthy women are hoping to preserve their ova while young so they can have babies later in life.

In Urayasu, home of Tokyo Disneyland, the municipal government subsidizes freezing for female residents between 20 and 34 years old. It stipulates that in principle, the women should use the eggs by the time they reach 45.

The ethics committee has examined the cases of the four women, who all attended sessions at the hospital to learn about the risks of late births, sources said.

A total of about 40 women have attended seven of the sessions so far, they said.

The city said a woman has to pay about ¥500,000 to ¥600,000 to have her eggs collected, frozen and preserved. The subsidy will lower the amount to about ¥100,000, including the cost of injections and medication.

With the average age of women giving birth for the first time reaching 30.6 years in 2014, egg freezing has drawn increased interest as more delay marriage and child birth until later in life.

However, opinions on the procedure are divided.

The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology has said it does not recommend the method, citing pregnancy rates that are “not high.”

Guidelines issued by the Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine, however, permit the method.

In February it was learned that a married, healthy woman in her 40s gave birth to a daughter last year using an egg that was frozen before marriage, the first known case in Japan.

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