11 Apr 2023 Trends Gaining Popularity in Reproductive Health
Societal progressions and advances in modern technology have created new trends in the fertility world that continue to gain in popularity as the traditional landscapes of family units and the pathways to parenthood evolve.
More Single Women Choosing Fertility Treatments
More single women are choosing fertility treatments to fulfill their dreams of motherhood. Although part of this increase can be attributed to women choosing their careers first and motherhood later, studies show the majority of single women choosing ART are simply tired of waiting for the right partner to come along.
“Research suggests it is the lack of a male partner prepared to commit to parenthood that is the key driver for women choosing to become single mothers,” Sarah Norcross, director of fertility campaign group PET, tells the Huffington Post. “They are not necessarily women who have failed to find the man they want to have children with – it is the absence of a man ready to become a dad that has led to this reproductive choice.”
Lauren O’Neill, a 37-year-old single mom, who turned to private sperm donation to become pregnant, tells ABC News, “I just found myself pretty much on a mission to find someone who I could have children with, and the pressure of that was so much that I just wasn’t even enjoying going out on dates anymore.” O’Neill gave birth to her daughter Daisy last summer and goes on to say that “realizing that there was another path, just the relief that brought was amazing.”
Egg Freezing Also Gaining Popularity Among Women
Another trend gaining popularity in reproductive health is that more women are freezing their eggs for future use. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), egg freezing cycles jumped 31 percent in 2021, and in the last six years, the total number of cycles has increased by 44 percent.
Women are typically born with around a million eggs, and this number continually decreases with age. In the past, this forced adherence to a woman’s biological clock often sacrificed education and career. But as egg freezing has become more mainstream and doctors have determined that frozen and then thawed eggs have success rates similar in IVF to those freshly harvested, egg freezing is at the forefront of reproductive health. The ASRM has concluded that egg freezing is an “ethically permissible medical treatment that may enhance women's reproductive autonomy and promote social equality.”
Dr. Nicole Noyes, a reproductive endocrinologist and former New York University professor who presented evidence on the effectiveness of egg freezing told The New York Times, “When I was first doing it, the mean age of women who came in was 38. Today, most of the consults I’m doing are with women in their 20s.” She goes on to say that the once “very shame-based” conversations regarding egg freezing are now routine. Women are preserving their chance of motherhood in the future.
Women Donating Eggs in Exchange for Cheaper IVF Costs
“Freeze and share,” another trend affecting the fertility sector, offers women fertility treatments at a cheaper cost if they are willing to share their eggs. These programs offer incentives such as free egg extraction and freezing or a free IVF cycle and have gained in popularity as the cost of fertility treatments has risen. The financial costs for freezing eggs alone can be well over $10,000, and that does not account for yearly storage fees, or any cost accrued when a woman is ready to use her eggs to become pregnant.
Dr. Shailaja Nair, clinical lead at the London Egg Bank tells The Spectator, “Some of our donors just want to help. Those using ‘freeze and share’ may want to have a child in the future. . . they’re doing something to help, but they’re also getting help. Egg freezing is expensive – younger women are coming forward.” Sarah, a single woman in her 30s, decided to donate her eggs in return for a free round of IVF after two failed attempts of intrauterine insemination. During her egg extraction, she produced 15 eggs and was able to donate seven of them, she tells the Mirror. She received her free round of IVF while only having to pay for extras such as donor sperm and saved over $7000. Her free IVF cycle was a success, and Sarah welcomed a healthy baby into the world.
While Sarah had a positive story and says that “being a donor made me feel amazing,” there are concerns regarding these programs, with some likening them to preying on those without the financial means to pay for their own fertility treatments. As we reported in 2020 and as a caution, any woman considering donating her eggs should be informed about all medical procedures, medications used including self-injected hormones used to stimulate egg production, and potential uses of donated eggs – whether they might be used for research or reproduction. It is also important to note that a growing number of jurisdictions in the U.S. and internationally require that donors remain identifiable in the event offspring seek contact or health information in the future.
Growing Demand for Single Embryo Transfer
The historic practice of transferring multiple embryos into the womb during IVF is declining, as a growing number of intended parents transfer only one embryo into the womb at a time. The ASRM recommends only implanting one embryo per IVF cycle, not only for the health of the intended parent or surrogate, but to also create a higher chance of a live birth and healthy baby, stating that “even twin gestations have significant additional morbidity compared with that of singletons.” The CDC also agrees that an elective single-embryo transfer (eSET) helps women avoid several risks to their own health, including c-sections, but also helps avoid risks such as preterm labor and premature babies, which may lead to developmental delays associated with carrying multiples.
This, however, is not the only reason for the rise of eSET. As inflation rises, the financial cost of raising multiple children, including the day-to-day costs as well as future costs such as a college education, have intended parents deciding against taking the chance of having multiples. There is also a growing number of intended parents who only want one child.
Adding to this uptick are states that are now mandating reproductive health coverage and employers offering fertility benefits as incentives in the competitive workforce, giving intended parents the much-needed financial break from the costs associated with assisted reproduction technology. Intended parents with reproductive health coverage are no longer feeling the pressure to transfer multiple embryos into the womb for fear of not being able to afford another round of IVF. The “throwing all of your eggs in one basket” scenario is slowly diminishing, as is the financial pressure to do so.
Modern technology continually brings new trends to the forefront. With greater transparency and acceptance in a field that was once veiled in secrecy, intended parents are now proactively choosing their own unique paths for parenthood. At IFLG, we always stay current with the latest trends and technological advances in ART and how to best navigate those changes state by state. Please feel free to reach out to our expert team of fertility law professionals with any questions and for guidance on your journey. We are here to help.