‘Cynical’ companies are accused of offering IVF treatment benefits to young women so they delay having children and focus on their careers
- Professor Adam Balen claims employers are cynically offering IVF treatment
- Fertility expert says this confidence in treatment success is misplaced
- He said the employers’ approach was ‘to actually encourage women to work’
Employers cynically offer IVF treatment as a perk so young women put off having children and focus on their careers, a fertility expert has claimed.
A growing number of companies, including British Gas owner Centrica, NatWest and law firm Freshfields, are promoting egg freezing as a workplace benefit.
They argue it gives women the option to defer parenting as they move up the corporate ladder, but Professor Adam Balen, former president of the British Fertility Society, said this trust in the success of fertility treatments was misplaced.
Employers are cynically offering IVF treatment as a perk so young women delay having children and focus on their careers, a fertility expert has claimed (stock photo used)
“Some organizations offer egg freezing. In other words, freeze your eggs now for us, and when we’ve had your best years, then you can use your eggs,” he said.
“There is an argument that having young eggs in the freezer is better than no eggs at all, but it could give the wrong impression that…IVF still works.
“While we have made huge strides in IVF, particularly in the UK, unfortunately it doesn’t work for everyone.”
Prof Balen, who is a senior clinician at the private fertility clinic in Leeds, said it was ‘a cynical approach to actually encouraging women to work rather than helping them start a family’.
While some celebrities, including actresses Halle Berry and Laura Linney, have become mothers after the age of 45, Prof Balen said media coverage “can give people an unrealistic impression that current technology works at any age. , and unfortunately this is not the case”.
He added: “Unfortunately, we cannot reverse the natural decline in a woman’s egg fertility.”
Her comments come as companies keen to attract top talent and encourage gender equality are offering discounted fertility treatment as a workplace perk.
Professor Adam Balen, former president of the British Fertility Society, said this confidence in the success of fertility treatments was misplaced (stock photo used)
IVF involves retrieving eggs and fertilizing them with sperm in a laboratory to create an embryo, before insertion into the mother’s womb.
According to the UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, the birth rate for patients under 35 using their own eggs was 32% per embryo transferred, but less than 5% for women over the age of 35. 43 years.
‘We [Leeds Fertility] don’t do IVF after 45 because it just doesn’t work with your own eggs,” Prof Balen said. “It’s just plain wrong to put someone through everything involved in IVF, plus the associated costs, with no chance.”
He suggested companies should instead offer parental leave and childcare.
“It would be more responsible for big companies and organizations to support their workforce, men and women, to enable them to have better nurseries and maternity and paternity leave,” he said.
“You will get more out of your staff if they are happy and have been able to have their families when it is most convenient for them.”
…BUT IT GIVES WORKERS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE NHS IVF LOTTERY
By Natalie Sutherland, Fertility Manager and Partner at Burgess Mee Family Law
Professor Adam Balen is right that when companies offer IVF and egg freezing as benefits, it could be seen as encouraging women to put off having a family.
Some women might indeed be tempted to focus on their careers during their most fertile years and then cash in on this apparent insurance policy once they’ve “succeeded”.
Despite this, however, I fully support any company that offers IVF and egg freezing as an employee benefit.
Sadly, too many women remain childless because NHS funding for fertility treatment is a postcode lottery: haphazard at best, woefully inadequate at worst.
Private funding for IVF can cost tens of thousands of pounds, which is unaffordable for many, so if women can instead access treatment through an employer who gives them more choice, that must be a good thing .
Armed with all the facts – how their fertility changes with age and how treatment can help them – women are perfectly capable of making up their own minds.
But we need to do much more to make society, including workplaces, more family-friendly, starting with better fertility education and a change in work culture that helps rather than hinders women to have children.