Rising numbers of healthy young women are paying thousands of dollars to freeze their eggs for social reasons with clinics saying their workload has doubled in a year.
One of the largest fertility treatment providers in Australia, Virtus Health says it has seen an increase of about 50 per cent in social egg freezing cycles for single women.
You're increasing your chances a bit compared to if you didn't do itAssociate Professor Kate Stern
Monash IVF has also experienced year-on-year growth over the past five years from less than five social cycles in 2011 to more than 50 last year and that looks set to be tripled in 2016.
An online survey of nearly 1000 single Australian women released on Saturday shows although the vast majority don't know anyone who has frozen their eggs, 32 per cent would consider it.
Egg freezing does not guarantee a baby and – according to the medical director of Monash IVF – leads to a successful pregnancy for only about one in four women.
"For all the cycles we've done so far the success rate is about 30 per cent, one in three will have a baby and that translates to about a 25 per cent live birth rate," Monash IVF medical director Luk Rombauts said.
Melbourne-based banking professional Van Sharma knew she wanted children but at 34 years old – three years ago – she wasn't exactly sure when. She has gone through two egg freezing cycles and considers them her small "insurance policy" for the future.
"In my early 30s I was focused on travel, career and education – I wasn't ready to settle down and have a family," she said.
"I was conscious however of the factors that age plays on fertility and I didn't want to get to a stage where I was in my late 30s or early 40s and I didn't have options.
"Egg freezing is like an insurance policy, and maybe that policy will pay off and maybe it won't."
Most of the women who participated in the survey – commissioned by Virtus – said they would consider freezing their eggs because they had not yet met "Mr Right" (530) and because they wanted to be more financially stable before starting a family (560).
Women are paying up to $10,000 each time they have their eggs collected and are likely to need to do this more than once to get just a 50 per cent chance of a successful pregnancy.
Associate Professor Kate Stern, from Melbourne IVF, said although more than 90 per cent of eggs survive the freezing and thawing process "the harder question to answer is do the eggs guarantee a pregnancy".
"If the eggs are harvested when a woman is under 38 and we get 15 to 20 eggs then that would give her a 50 per cent chance of a successful pregnancy," she said.
She said it was unusual for doctors to be able to get 15 eggs in one procedure, particularly once a woman is over 35 and that nobody should rely on egg freezing as an alternative to having children sooner.
"You're increasing your chances a bit compared to if you didn't do it," she said.
"You've got more likelihood of getting more good eggs when you're young but there's no guarantee in any of this."