The number of single women trying to conceive through IVF has skyrocketed, while demand for egg freezing is also booming, according to a report from the UK’s fertility regulator.
More people than ever are undergoing fertility treatment in the UK, with egg and embryo freezing being the fastest growing procedures, according to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.
The number of patients seeking to become single mothers of an IVF baby rose 44 percent from 2,001 in 2019 to 2,888 in 2021.
And the number of IVF patients in same-sex female relationships rose 33 percent from 1,649 to 2,201 over the same period.
This means that single patients and patients in same-sex female relationships had the largest increase in IVF use.
Hollywood actress Sienna Miller revealed last year that she froze her eggs at age 40 to avoid the ‘existential threat’ of her ticking biological clock
Meanwhile, egg freezing and storage by all women has increased by 64 percent from 2,576 cycles in 2019 to 4,215 in 2021, which is 11 times more than the 373 in 2011.
Experts say the Covid pandemic has had a major impact on the number of women seeking to freeze their eggs in hopes of preserving their fertility.
Some will wait to get up the property ladder, build their careers, or wait to find a partner. Others may go on to have a baby on their own.
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, said of the latest data: ‘The dramatic rise in egg freezing cycles may be related to the pandemic.
“Restrictions on socializing may have prompted some women to think more about their fertile window and decide to try to increase their reproductive choices.”
And Alison Campbell, chief scientific officer at Care Fertility Group and honorary professor at the University of Kent, said: ‘Families come in many forms, and it’s good to see such a continued increase in the number of single patients and patients of the same gender partnerships undergoing fertility treatment and building their families.
‘However, access to treatment can be challenging for these patients, who are often ineligible for NHS funding and therefore require them to fund themselves.
“NHS-funded IVF treatment cycles remain below pre-pandemic levels for most age groups, with wide variations by country and region.”
More people than ever are undergoing fertility treatment in the UK, with egg and embryo freezing being the fastest growing procedures, according to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority
The HFEA data shows that the average age of women undergoing IVF fertility treatment has risen to 36, compared to nearly 31 for those who conceive naturally.
It also reveals that more patients than ever before are paying privately for IVF.
About 63 percent of IVF cycles in patients aged 18 to 34 were privately funded in 2021, compared to 52 percent in 2019.
The number of IVF cycles funded by the NHS has continued to vary across the UK, with an overall drop of 16 per cent to 20,000 cycles in 2021 from around 24,000 in 2019.
Ms Norcross said: ‘The 16 per cent drop in the number of IVF cycles funded by the NHS between 2019 and 2021 is an extremely worrying trend.
While some of this can be attributed to the pandemic, it is unlikely that all of it is.
?The fact that most people under 35 will have to pay for their own fertility treatment, during a cost-of-living crisis and when mortgage rates are expected to rise means that many cannot afford to have the chance to have a family. ‘
There was a 10 percent increase in IVF and donor insemination cycles between 2019 and 2021, which equates to about 7,000 more cycles.
The number of live births per embryo transferred rose from 7 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 2021 for patients aged 35 to 37 and from 6 percent in 1991 to 17 percent in 2021 for patients aged 38 to 39.
For those ages 40 to 42, the live birth rate per embryo stands at 10 percent, but plummets for women ages 43 and older.
Julia Chain, President of the HFEA, said: ‘Overall, the new HFEA report paints a promising picture.
?It shows that the number of treatments is back to pre-pandemic levels and thanks to improved clinical and laboratory practices, the number of pregnancies is increasing over time.
?Despite the pandemic being officially declared over, the aftershocks are still being felt as delays in other areas of healthcare prevent some patients from accessing fertility services.
Our report shows that the average age of IVF patients has risen to 36 years, about five years older than mothers who conceive naturally and these aftershocks could mean that the average age of an IVF patient continues to rise.
‘Although the number of pregnancies has increased, the chance of success decreases with age.
“For some patients, this can mean never having the baby they hoped for and that’s heartbreaking.”