She’s known the world over, from Bollywood to Hollywood, a screen icon with a backlist of more than 50 Hindi-produced films to her credit and lately the star of the US drama Quantico. And let’s not forget that she launched her acting career after winning the Miss World beauty pageant in 2000, has over 85 million Instagram followers and in 2021 stepped into the New York Times bestsellers list with her so-far-so-good memoir, ‘Unfinished’. Priyanka Chopra Jonas has certainly built a successful career for herself and today joins a short list of screen stars - such as Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston – in candidly discussing the importance of exploring fertility options at a younger age.
Daughter of an Indian obstetrician-gynaecologist, Chopra was advised by her mother to freeze her eggs in her thirties and now uses her platform to encourage other women to do the same.
There are a plethora of reasons why a woman may choose to put her fertility on hold, and for Chopra it was a decision which ultimately would shape her personal and professional life for the better. ‘I felt such a freedom,’ she told Armchair Expert Podcast with Dax Shepard, summarised well by the Independent. ‘I did it in my early thirties, so I could continue on an ambitious warpath that I wanted to achieve. I wanted to get to a certain place in my career,’ adding that her single relationship status at the time was also a factor behind her decision. And of course, her age. ‘Just do it,’ her gynaecologist mother had said.
It's the same age-related advice that many fertility professionals also recommend. Egg quality, as well as egg quantity, both begin their average decline at the age of 35, and thereafter pregnancy, whether natural or with the help of IVF, is more difficult to achieve. When addressing her battle with infertility, Jennifer Aniston confessed: ‘I would've given anything if someone had said to me, “Freeze your eggs. Do yourself a favour”. You just don't think it. So here I am today. The ship has sailed’.
Egg freezing is one the fastest growing fertility treatments in Britain, and rapidly becoming a routine procedure at fertility centres like London Women’s Clinic, which remains the UK’s only centre with a dedicated egg bank for frozen eggs. As of December 2022, our laboratories have frozen more than 30,000 (donor and own) eggs and thawed over 10,000 which resulted in over 1,000 successful births, making us the largest centre for egg freezing in the UK. Like Chopra’s mother, we advise any women considering freezing their eggs, to do so as early as possible – the optimum time being in your mid-20s to early 30s – to maximise later chances of a successful pregnancy using your own frozen eggs. As Chopra aptly puts it,
"It’s the best gift you’ll give yourself because you’re taking the power from your biological clock, and you can work until however long you want. Your eggs will still be the same age as when you froze them".
Chopra and musician husband Nick Jonas are now parents to a little girl born in early 2022 through surrogacy, another well-established treatment at London Women’s Clinic. For Chopra, surrogacy was ‘a necessary step’ due to the ‘medical complications’ she described to Vogue. Surrogacy is indeed a rare procedure, usually sought by couples in whom the female partner is unable to deliver a baby safely, or by gay men hoping to start a family of their own. The surrogate, a third-party woman, sometimes a kind-hearted relative who agrees to carry the pregnancy to term for the couple, who remain the ‘intended parents’.
In a landmark 2022 study on the first 179 surrogacy treatments at London Women’s Clinic found that the number of surrogacy treatments is steadily increasing, with ‘clear evidence’ that the proportion of same-sex male couples is a major contributor to this growth. Moreover, there are now more intended-parent couples choosing frozen eggs for treatment than ‘fresh’ eggs collected for synchronised treatment by IVF. London Women's Clinic's success rates were high in the study, though procedure arrangements remain relatively complicated and subject to legal requirements.
Chopra’s own surrogacy story too was not without complications. The baby girl born to her surrogate mother was born prematurely and had to spend more than three months in intensive care - one reason why Chopra and Jonas kept so quiet about the baby’s birth initially. But today, more than a year after her birth, parents and baby are reported to be doing well despite earlier complications. In a recent interview with British Vogue, Chopra stated ‘our surrogate was so generous, kind, lovely and funny. She took care of this precious gift for us for six months’ demonstrating surrogacy as a worthwhile fertility option for some couples.
In Britain the regulations which apply to surrogacy are in the midst of an imminent overhaul, which aims to recognise its increasing use and ensure that patients making surrogacy arrangements have a better protected and more efficient course of treatment. The other aim is that arrangements remain altruistic and not commercial, and notably that the intended parents of a child born in a formally registered arrangement will be recognised as legal parents immediately at birth. No one ever said that surrogacy was easy, but the legal changes hope to remove some of the procedural difficulties of the past. The introduction of some changes in 2012 as to how egg donors are recruited has already been beneficial to thousands of men and women but, as the experience of Chopra shows, for some couples the combination of surrogacy and frozen donor eggs is a necessary course to take and a well-trodden path to parenthood, even for stars who seem to have the whole world before them.
Want to know more?
If you are considering egg freezing for any reason, visit our website for more information or contact our Egg Freezing Programme Manager, Egle Kancleryte via email or on 0207 563 4306. Egle leads our team of dedicated Treatment Coordinators who are on hand to talk you through your first steps.