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Panic Parenting and How it Relates to IVF

Women are freezing their eggs to avoid panic parenting.

March 18, 2019

A new study published in Human Fertility asked women why they were freezing their eggs. For some it is in hopes to use for future IVF treatment-- but for others, it was to avoid what the researchers labeled “panic parenting.” This is when women choose to have their eggs frozen to avoid being in a relationship just to conceive a child . But why the upswing in this practice-- especially amongst younger women? The study was done to find an answer to just that-- and to get to the bottom of what this could mean for any IVF treatment these women would seek out in the future. In this article we’ll discuss:

  • Why are single women freezing their eggs
  • What do we mean by panic parenting
  • How does this all relate to IVF

hands holding a baby's feet
A relatively small number of women are freezing their eggs-- but the reasons they’re doing so are changing.

Why are single women freezing their eggs?

This study was conducted by Dr. Kylie Baldwin an Professor Lorraine Culley of the Centre for Reproduction Research at the De Montfort University-- they sought an answer to the question of why younger women were starting to freeze their eggs. What they found was interesting.

Most women freeze their eggs to use for future use or if they’re currently undergoing IVF treatment with a partner. In contrast, the women interviewed in this study had admitted to freezing their eggs for “social reasons.”

This means that the women in the study were worried about finding the right partner in time to create a genetically related child. They sought out fertility clinics for information on the freezing process and were informed that it would be a viable option.

Women were freezing their eggs in order to give themselves more time to find a suitable partner-- they were told by clinics that egg freezing was a great way to put off motherhood. The study also found that of the 31 women interviewed, 84% were single or not in a relationship where their partner was considering fatherhood.

Close up of egg cell
Image courtesy of PBS Newshour. Women are freezing their eggs to avoid panic parenting, and getting into a relationship for the wrong reasons.

What is panic parenting?

This term is used to describe what these women-- and many others like them-- are trying to avoid. The women in this study froze their eggs so they would not fall into the panic parenting trap-- and get into a relationship only to have a child. The median age for the women in the study was 37-- and most of them admitted they were worried that they would not have enough time to find a partner, and were putting pressure on themselves.

Most of the women interviewed in this study hope to never use their eggs-- and most wished they did not have to go through the procedure in the first place. Instead, they would rather be in committed relationships with the hope to conceive naturally. But if they do decide to use the eggs that were frozen, most of the participants stated that the clinics they spoke to could not give them accurate prediction of the likelihood of a live birth. The majority felt the whole process was confusing, and did not have the opportunity to discuss post-freezing processes and outcomes. This was worrying information to the researchers.

Man looking into a microscope
Women who are interested in freezing their eggs should make sure they have all the information to make their decision.

How does this relate to IVF?

Because these women have already spent the money to have their eggs frozen, whether or not they use them does not make a difference to the clinic. The researchers were alarmed that the women received so little advice when contemplating such a large decision-- one that could have side effects later in life.

The chance that one frozen egg will lead to a viable embryo is anywhere from 2-12%, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. This is why it is important to have a couple dozen eggs frozen-- if a woman and her partner want to have a better chance of conceiving further down the road. This means going through the IVF treatment multiple times. While it is not known how many eggs the women in the study had frozen, their best chance at conception would be with more than two eggs.

Women looking to freeze their eggs-- and couples considering IVF treatment for infertility-- should be aware of all the risk associated with the procedure. Including the likelihood of conceiving a child. There are physical-- as well as emotional-- costs that are associated with the procedure, and they should be known ahead of making any decision.

Freezing your eggs-- while it seems like a good way to extend the genetic clock-- has its own list of problems and unforeseen circumstances. As couples going through IVF treatment can already attest to. Women should be aware of all the ins and outs of the process, and be prepared for all possible outcomes.


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