What is known in Europe about the practice of oocyte cryopreservation (OoC), in terms of current statutory background, funding conditions, indications (medical and ‘non-medical’) and specific number of cycles?
Laws and conditions for OoC vary in Europe, with just over half the responding countries providing this for medical reasons with state funding, and none providing funding for ‘non-medical’ OoC.
WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN
The practice of OoC is a well-established and increasing practice in some European countries, but data gathering on storage is not homogeneous, and still sparse for use. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OtC) is only practiced and registered in a few countries.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, AND DURATION
A transversal collaborative survey on OoC and OtC, was designed, based on a country questionnaire containing information on statutory or professional background and practice, as well as available data on ovarian cell and tissue collection, storage and use. It was performed between January and September 2015.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING AND METHODS
All ESHRE European IVF Monitoring (EIM) consortium national coordinators were contacted, as well as members of the ESHRE committee of national representatives, and sent a questionnaire. The form included national policy and practice details, whether through current existing law or code of practice, criteria for freezing (age, health status), availability of funding and the presence of a specific register. The questionnaire also included data on both the number of OoC cycles and cryopreserved oocytes per year between 2010 and 2014, specifically for egg donation, fertility preservation for medical disease, ‘other medical’ reasons as part of an ART cycle, as well as for ‘non-medical reasons’ or age-related fertility decline. Another question concerning data on freezing and use of ovarian tissue over 5 years was added and sent after receiving the initial questionnaire.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
Out of 34 EIM members, we received answers regarding OoC regulations and funding conditions from 27, whilst 17 countries had recorded data for OoC, and 12 for OtC. The specific statutory framework for OoC and OtC varies from absent to a strict frame. A total of 34 705 OoC cycles were reported during the 5-year-period, with a continuous increase. However, the accurate description of numbers was concentrated on the year 2013 because it was the most complete. In 2013, a total of 9126 aspirations involving OoC were reported from 16 countries. Among the 8885 oocyte aspirations with fully available data, the majority or 5323 cycles (59.9%) was performed for egg donation, resulting in the highest yield per cycle, with an average of 10.4 oocytes frozen per cycle. OoC indication was ‘serious disease’ such as cancer in 10.9% of cycles, other medical indications as ‘part of an ART cycle’ in 16.1%, and a non-medical reason in 13.1%. With regard to the use of OoC, the number of specifically recorded frozen oocyte replacement (FOR) cycles performed in 2013 for all medical reasons was 14 times higher than the FOR for non-medical reasons, using, respectively, 8.0 and 8.4 oocytes per cycle. Finally, 12 countries recorded storage following OtC and only 7 recorded the number of grafted frozen/thawed tissues.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION
Not all countries have data regarding OoC collection, and some data came from voluntary collaborating centres, rather than a national authority or register. Furthermore, the data related to use of OoC were not included for two major players in the field, Italy and Spain, where numbers were conflated for medical and non-medical reasons. Finally, the number of cycles started with no retrieval is not available. Data are even sparser for OtC.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
There is a need for ART authorities and professional bodies to record precise data for practice and use of OoC (and OtC), according to indications and usage, in order to reliably inform all stakeholders including women about the efficiency of both methods. Furthermore, professional societies should establish professional standards for access to and use of OoC and OtC, and give appropriate guidance to all involved.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)
The study was supported by ESHRE. There are no conflicts of interest.
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