As fertility rates in Europe drop, public support for egg-freezing practices and IVF treatment is highly positive

As fertility rates in Europe drop, public support for egg-freezing practices and IVF treatment is highly positive
Results of a new fertility survey from Teva Pharmaceuticals Europe show high acceptance in Europe of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and egg-freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) treatments for both medical and lifestyle reasons.[1 ]
The Teva survey, Listening in: IVF and Fertility in Europe (LIFE), was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Geneva, Switzerland, in July. The survey asked over 6,000 men and women in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom for their views on fertility treatments. Teva conducted the survey to better understand people’s evolving views on fertility treatments, and to promote a dialogue around access to IVF and egg-freezing.
Europe currently has the lowest fertility rate in the world,[2] with women on average having 1.58 children each in 2014, far below the rate of 2.1 needed to maintain population at current levels (in the absence of migration).[3] Fertility rates continue to decrease, driven by both biological and lifestyle factors,[2] with infertility currently affecting at least one in 10 couples in Europe.[4] In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process for treating infertility, while egg-freezing (oocyte cryopreservation ) is a process for preserving fertility and preventing future infertility. Egg-freezing is aimed at two groups of women in particular: those diagnosed with cancer, who have not yet begun chemotherapy, or with any other medical condition for which treatment may alter future fertility; and those who would like to preserve their future ability to have children and choose to delay parenthood for personal reasons, either because they do not yet have a partner, or because of work or professional reasons.
The Teva LIFE survey showed that 93 per cent of respondents believed IVF should be publicly funded to some extent, with over 50 per cent of all respondents stating that two or three rounds of IVF treatment were the most that government should fund. Compared with younger age groups, roughly half as many over 55 year olds (13 per cent surveyed versus 24 per cent for younger age groups) were in favour of government-funded IVF for couples wishing to postpone starting a family. Of survey respondents, 48% believed that couples, who need fertility treatment for medical reasons, are most deserving of government-funded treatment. This compared with 59 per cent of respondents, who believed that the couples most deserving of government-funded treatment are those who want to have a first child but who are unable to conceive naturally.
When it came to egg-freezing, 60 per cent of respondents were in favour of egg-freezing for lifestyle reasons, such as starting a family later in life. Support amongst younger respondents was greatest (67 per cent of 16-24 year olds and 69 per cent of 25-34 year olds). Findings from the survey also showed that 84 per cent of respondents supported the practice of egg-freezing when necessary for medical reasons, such as preserving eggs before undergoing chemotherapy. However, half of respondents (50 per cent) said the couple or individual involved should meet the costs of egg-freezing for medical reasons – rather than using government funds. Considerably more men than women supported this view (57 per cent versus 42 per cent).
In commenting on the survey, Dr. Bart Fauser, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands, said: “These findings provide fascinating and compelling evidence of the shifting public attitudes around fertility procedures used for both medical and lifestyle reasons. I see many women who face issues with fertility, not only because of existing medical conditions, but increasingly when personal circumstance precludes them from having a baby at the present time. Individuals and couples should feel confident about exploring egg-freezing and IVF treatment as possible solutions to their current fertility challenges.”
Other survey results further demonstrated respondents’ progressive attitudes towards IVF for single women and same sex couples. 61 per cent of all respondents supported the use of IVF in single women who use a sperm donor, and 64 per cent of all respondents supported same sex female couples undergoing IVF with the use of a sperm donor. Among respondents over 55 years old, there was considerably less support for making IVF available to same sex female couples (47 per cent in people aged ≥55 years versus 79 per cent in people aged 16-24 years) or available to single women wishing to try IVF with a sperm donor (45 per cent in people aged ≥55 years versus 70 per cent in people aged 16-24 years). Overall, there was a general expectation among respondents that both IVF treatment (76 per cent) and egg-freezing (69 per cent) would increase over the next five years. The majority of respondents supported the practice of egg (78 per cent) and sperm donation (78 per cent).
References
  1. Falser B. & Levy-Toledano R. Public perception of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and fertility preservation: assessed by the Listening IVF and Fertility in Europe (LIFE) survey. Presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) on Tuesday 4th July at17:00-17:15. Abstract number: O-203.
  2. ESHRE Capri Workshop Group. Europe the continent with the lowest fertility. Hum Reprod Update. 2010. 16 (6):590–602.
  3. Fertility Statistics European Commission Eurostat. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Fertility_statistics [Accessed June 2017].
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO). Entre Nous: The European Magazine for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Low Fertility – The Future of Europe? No. 63, 2006.
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