The fertility business is booming—egg freezing is being sold to a generation of men and women increasingly interested in deferring parenthood. But is optimistic marketing giving false hope? Read more here: https://trib.al/7K9Lw4O
On July 25th, 1978, in Oldham, England, a baby girl named Louise was born. Unlike any baby before her, Louise was conceived in a Petri dish by a remarkable new procedure known as in-vitro fertilisation, or IVF.
Since then, millions of so-called ‘test-tube babies’ have been born. Today, 1 in 60 American births is thanks to IVF and other fertility treatments, which have spawned a booming new industry in many different countries.
But are fertility businesses making promises they can’t keep? Sacha Nauta can help answer that. She’s the public policy editor at The Economist.
IVF provides a valuable option for people who for whatever reason are unable to conceive. But there’s another emerging market.
That’s freezing of egg or sperm cells for IVF in the future, often years later. Egg-freezing is a relatively new procedure, and was officially considered “experimental” in America until 2012.
this is what egg-freezing businesses appear to promise: a chance to put parenthood “on ice”, which appeals to young people who are increasingly interested in having children later, for a variety of reasons.
And women are increasingly buying in. The number of egg-freezing procedures has grown rapidly over the past decade.
The process isn’t cheap: egg-freezing can cost $15,000-$20,000 USD per cycle, which is a single batch of eggs. It often requires multiple cycles to increase chances of success.
Egg-freezing and similar services are part of the burgeoning women’s health industry dubbed “femtech”, and are attracting plenty of interest from investors.
Investments in fertility firms grew from less than $200m in 2009 to $624m in 2018. Investors are attracted to the growth prospects, high profit margins and recession-proof demand.
Investors, businesses, and prospective parents all stand to benefit. But, the reliability of these services might be oversold.
Birth rates from frozen eggs should be taken with a grain of salt: most women who have had their eggs frozen have not yet retrieved them, so the sample sizes are small. It’s just too soon to draw reliable conclusions. Still, clinics might misrepresent the data to encourage freezing.
There’s also a lack of sufficient regulation of fertility services, especially in America.
So, what’s needed from the fertility sector?