Accepting employer egg-freezing benefit and postponing pregnancy requires financial, physical and emotional education and analysis to make sure it’s right for you.
Apple and Facebook now offer women a special perk: They will pay for women employees to freeze their eggs. Both companies offer this benefit up to $20,000 (Apple, starting in January 2015). Considering these procedures are very expensive (usually $10,000 for every round, plus $500 or more annually for storage), and usually require several rounds, women opting to delay pregnancy and avail themselves on this offering, will most likely be out-of-pocket a substantial amount when they eventually go trough the process.
The CEO of Eggsurance.com Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate, claims that:
“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do…by offering this benefit, companies are investing in women and supporting them in carving out the lives they want.”
Mitchell Rosen, Director of the University of California San Francisco Fertility Preservation Program and Reproductive Laboratories said “today, there’s been an explosion” of interest in the field, which he attributes to more experience and success with the procedure (a new flash-freezing technique removes the ice crystals that can harm the egg).
In addition, a landmark trial by the New York University Fertility Center found that frozen eggs can achieve the same pregnancy rates as fresh eggs, and that the results of the trial using twenty-two women were as follows:
“Fourteen women became pregnant; one miscarried; 10 have delivered 13 viable infants; and three pregnancies are ongoing for an ongoing/delivery pregnancy rate of 57%. This result was not statistically different from cycles performed consecutively in age-matched controls using fresh, nonfrozen autologous or donor oocytes during a similar time period.”
Dr Kutluk Oktay, New York Medical College, lead a team that crunched data from 2,265 egg-freezing cycles in 1,805 women in the US and Europe with the following results:
“ A 21-year-old woman who freezes a dozen eggs, the average number, has a 43 percent shot at giving birth when she is ready to get pregnant. A 45-year-old has only a 12 percent chance.”
The key is the woman’s age when she freezes her eggs–not when she wants to get pregnant:
“If you freeze your eggs at 30, whether you use them at 40, 50 or 60, the success rate is the same…egg quality declines with age, and sharply after 36 to 37.”
Women chosing to postpone pregnancy to pursue a career can now calculate their odds of having a baby with an egg-freezing success calculator.
It is important to note that this process is presently mostly used by women who freeze their eggs before undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer, but “the focus is shifting” to those who just want to keep their options open while delaying pregnancy, Oktay said.
There is no doubt that the benefit offered by some employers takes some of the bite off the high cost of these procedures. It is up to each woman to decide if going through the process of egg harvesting (hormone injections, pills and the actual procedure) is worth it as an insurance policy for the future (realizing the relatively low success rates and high cost of these procedures). An interesting question to think about is the motivation and thinking behind employers offering this perk, and what their attitude will be when an employee decided to get pregnant, using the frozen eggs, and needs time off.
Life is a balancing act and postponing family for career is an individual choice, as it should be. Each choice (to have kids at younger or older age), has individual built in challenges (for both women and men), that go beyond solving the mechanics of getting pregnant. These advances in medicine provide women with additional options, which are a good thing. However, as Joan C. Williams, a Law Professor and Director of the Center for Worklife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, stated when discussing an egg-freezing benefit with Jena McGregor of the Washington Post:
“if women are asking for it, it makes sense to give it to them.” However, “it shouldn’t be a substitute for creating a workplace where motherhood is compatible with a high-powered career.”