Childless women's beliefs and knowledge about oocyte freezing for social and medical reasons

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Abstract

STUDY QUESTION

What factors inform a woman's decision-making about oocyte freezing to preserve fertility for social and medical reasons?

SUMMARY ANSWER

Women lacked knowledge about the costs and viability of oocyte freezing as a fertility preservation option for social and medical reasons, and identified health consequences, costs, and viability as being particularly influential in their decision-making.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY

Having only recently become a viable fertility preservation option, relatively little is known about childless women's beliefs or knowledge about oocyte freezing for social or medical reasons.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION

A cross sectional study of 500 childless women was conducted in August, 2015.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS

A total of 500 childless, presumed fertile, women from 18 to 38 years of age completed an online, self-report questionnaire assessing beliefs and knowledge about oocyte freezing to preserve fertility for social or medical reasons.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE

Financial costs (85.6%), health risks to themselves (86.4%) or their offspring (87.8%), and success rates (82%) were the primary factors that women felt would influence their decision to freeze their oocytes. Partner's feelings (88.6%), prognosis for a full recovery (85.4%), and concerns about the health effects of the hormones or oocyte retrieval procedure (85.4%) were identified as being particularly important when considering oocyte freezing for medical reasons. Consistent with their perceptions of having little or no knowledge about oocyte freezing, there was an overall correct response rate of 33% to the 12 knowledge questions.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION

The online format and use of a survey company to recruit participants may have increased the risk of self-selection bias and limit the generalizability of these findings. The findings may also be limited by the fact that the participants were not facing cancer treatments, and the younger participants were not nearing the end of their reproductive lifespan, and therefore would not have had reason to learn about, or consider, fertility preservation for medical or social reasons.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS

Given the worldwide trend towards delaying childbearing and the increasing availability of oocyte freezing as an option to preserve women's fertility, it is likely these results could be extended to wider North American, European, and Australasian populations of English speaking childless women.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)

No specific funding. No competing interests.

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