The Surprising Truth: Why Women Really Freeze Their Eggs?

November 14, 2019 | Yesmom

Yes Mom

Social egg freezing, preserving and storing a woman’s eggs for non-medical purposes, is on the rise and gaining popularity faster than ever. Facebook, Apple, and Google announced in 2014 that their female employees will receive financial support for infertility treatments such as oocyte cryopreservation and egg storage, encouraging millions of women across the globe to come forward and embrace this technology. 


But according to the largest qualitative study conducted in elective egg freezing, the vast majority of women choosing to freeze their eggs are not doing so to climb up the corporate ladder. 

Career Growth vs Relationships – An Enlightening Study


The study, presented today by Dr. Marcia Inhorn, an anthropologist from Yale University, noted that oocyte cryopreservation is usually highlighted by the media and even in medical literature as an elective egg freezing that is gaining popularity among women pursuing education and careers, to defer or delay their childbearing. But their research using 150 women from various IVF clinics across the USA and in Israel, found that “the lack of a stable partner is the primary motivation.”


It turned out that about 85% of the study participants did not have a partner at the time they chose to freeze their eggs and underwent the procedure. While some were still single, others had broken up a relationship, were divorced, in the process of getting divorced or were single mothers by circumstance or choice. Freezing their eggs as a career move was the least common reason among these women, even if they had egg freezing insurance coverage from the companies they worked for.


Even among the 15% test subject that had partners, they chose to freeze their eggs due to the unreliability of their partners in terms of their commitment to marriage or parenting. Either the relationship was still too uncertain, the partner was not faithful or had his own multiple partners, he was not ready to have children yet or he refused to even consider having a child. Most of these women had already achieved their educational and career goals, but even in their 30s, they were unable to find a stable partner for a lasting reproductive relationship. 

Smart Career Moves and Financial Planning


Now, this is not to say there aren’t women who choose to freeze their eggs so that they can focus on building their careers or completing their higher education. For women entrepreneurs launching their own startups or working in one, the ones busy climbing up the corporate ladder or have just achieved their much-desired firm partnerships, in the demanding stages of completing law or medical schools, having a baby may. understandably, not be their top priority right now.


For women who are entrepreneurs, working at a startup, climbing the corporate ladder, working to make partner, or finishing medical or law school, having a baby right now is just not an option. A research conducted by New York University observed that 24% of women in their study chose to freeze their eggs for delaying childbearing due to professional reasons. 15% of women cited financial reasons behind their decision to freeze their eggs. 


Financial stability is indeed another reason why some women prefer to delay starting a family or having a second child. Having children often adversely affects a woman’s lifetime earning potential. So the longer she is able to work before having children, the more money she may be able to set aside to rear them, maybe even own a house or two by then. 


Another factor where egg freezing makes sense from a financial viewpoint is that if you are planning to have children late, then you may need fewer cycles of fertility treatments using eggs frozen at 30 than using your fresh eggs at age of 40. So egg freezing may actually save you some money. 

Is the Cost and the Effort Worthwhile?


Egg freezing is an expensive procedure that can range from Rs 50,000 to lakhs of rupees based on the screening tests, hormone treatments, the number of times you have to undergo the egg retrieval procedure to get the targeted number of eggs, the freezing technology and finally for the storage charges for the number of years the eggs remain frozen. You also need to factor in the costs of using these eggs later on. They have to be thawed and fertilized before the embryo can be implanted into your uterus. IVF, using fresh or frozen eggs, is also an expensive procedure. It is important to plan for the eventual IVF charges also. What’s the point in freezing your eggs if you are not planning to use them later on? 


Preeti, a software engineer in her early 30s, who has already frozen her eggs, reveals that she is already saving up money for the future IVF treatments required to use her frozen eggs for getting pregnant. Even if she does conceive naturally and may not require the IVF, she says she’d rather be safe than sorry and the saved up money can be used for something else. 


She mainly chose to freeze her eggs as her company was offering financial support for these fertility procedures and she thought its best to take advantage of their offer. The cost and the effort do add up to a lot, she admits. But she feels it is worth the effort and now she feels at peace regarding her motherhood choices. She also revealed that she feels more in control of her body and her life than forced to act by a ticking biological clock.


She had to take daily hormone shots for many days to stimulate her egg growth. She also had to test her blood on a regular basis to see if these shots were working as expected and adjustments were made to her medications accordingly. After her eggs were retrieved, she did experience some minor discomforts, she revealed, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle. She took it easy and waited for about 4 weeks before getting back to her normal fitness workouts and routines. “Don’t let the cost scare you off. If you can afford it or the cost is covered by your company, then you should definitely go for it”,” she advises.


Success Rates: Egg Freezing Vs Embryo Freezing


If you are considering delaying your parenthood, should you go in for egg freezing or embryo freezing? According to research, there is a higher success with frozen embryos than frozen eggs. But for fertilizing the eggs to create embryos requires sperm. So if you are in a stable relationship or you are willing to use donor sperm, you can consider embryo freezing. 


At the age of 31, American actress and singer Sophie B. Hawkins froze 15 embryos, fertilized using donor sperm. She chose to use her frozen embryos almost twenty years later and she successfully delivered her baby girl, Esther Ballantine Hawkins, at the age of 50. She had already given birth to her son Dashiell in 2008 without having to use her frozen eggs. 


“Being 50 is actually an amazing age to have a second child because I am more wise, calm, humorous, appreciative, simple and clear. I’m not running around looking for love and validation. I live each day full of gratitude, and that’s good for my children.”, Sophie told Us Weekly at the time.


If donor sperm is not an appealing option, then you can make an informed decision to freeze your eggs after having explored all your options. Even if you conceive naturally after freezing your eggs, it doesn’t mean you have frozen your eggs or embryo in vain. You can always choose to use them at a later date to have even more children.


The Final Note Why Women Really Freeze Their Eggs


Despite the popular belief that women are freezing their eggs mostly for pursuing their education or career, researchers were surprised to note that the vast majority of women in their studies actually chose to freeze their eggs because they were not in a stable relationship or did not have a partner who wanted to start a family as well. 


Yes! They were waiting for their Mr. Right, a loving and dependable father for their child. And in case he did not materialize, many women still wanted the option to have their own biological child, even if it meant having to use donor sperm.


Other non-medical reasons did include career growth and financial stability. Freezing your eggs does not mean you will not conceive naturally later on and hopefully, you may never need your eggs or have to fo through numerous IVF cycles. But its always best to have that backup or the assurance that you have your frozen eggs to help you conceive a child, even at the age of 50.