Ice, Ice … Baby?

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Science is amazing. Without it I am not sure I would be able to call myself a mom. Due to breakthroughs in science and medicine, women now have lots of choices and opportunities when it comes to reproduction. Decades ago women may have been labeled as barren and left with not many choices when it came to the idea of building a family. Just as the women’s rights movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s gave women a voice for equality both in the workplace and within society, the medical breakthroughs at that time (everything from Roe v. Wade, the birth control pill and the introduction of IVF) have given women another level of freedom filled with reproductive rights and choices.

Fast-forward to 2014 . . . The procedure of Oocyte Cryopreservation, otherwise known as egg freezing has been around for a few decades – Really ever since the introduction of IVF. So how does egg freezing work? Well I checked with the trusted source, Wikipedia, and the process goes like this:

The egg retrieval process for oocyte cryopreservation is the same as that for in vitro fertilization.This includes one to several weeks of hormone injections that stimulate ovaries to ripen multiple eggs. When the eggs are mature, a medication to trigger ovulation is given and the eggs are removed from the body using an ultrasound-guided needle through the vagina. The procedure is usually conducted under sedation. The eggs are immediately frozen.

But egg freezing is getting lots of media buzz lately. Yes, due to the awesome world of science, women now have the opportunity to press pause on their life’s playlist. In fact in 2012 the ASRM, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, lifted the experimental label off of egg freezing, which only added to the popularity of this procedure. That is, women can now freeze their eggs during the height of their childbearing age if they are not ready to have a child. While I don’t profess to be a mind reader, women may decide to enter this process for reasons that may include she has not yet met her mate and she does not want to have a child alone; or she is simply not ready to have a child at this point in her life – whether due to her career or other life circumstances.

In reading the news, it has become apparent that egg freezing is becoming more and more popular. Just like more women are seeking treatment for infertility, more women are freezing eggs and, O.M.G., they are talking about it! There are even “Egg Freezing Parties.” For example, the company Eggbanxx hosts events that “combine fertility doctors, fertility drug information, patient testimonials, Q&A sessions and financing information with cocktails!”  A recent party in NYC was called “Let’s Chill”. I envision this event to be a cross between speed dating and a medical conference.

And to add to the recent hype and media buzz, now the tech giants Facebook and Apple have announced that they will add insurance coverage for egg freezing to their list of great perks. At Facebook’s campus office you can literally ride your bike to the on site dentist for an annual cleaning, drop off your dry cleaning and then make an appointment at the fertility clinic for your egg freezing process all under the name of corporate benefits. And I thought my old job was great because benefits included a discount on shoes and bags, and summer Fridays.

With this announcement of course came the various responses – some positive, some negative, some applauding these companies, some crucifying them. So is it a great perk?  Well the national average cost of egg freezing is $13,000, so having insurance coverage will help lots of women from a financial standpoint. (Most women need at least two rounds of procedures to get enough eggs to freeze plus the cost of storage.) But not to kill the excitement buzz, I do have to point something out. Egg freezing isn’t a 100% guarantee. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, when a woman age 38 or younger freezes her eggs, the success rate of one frozen egg yielding a baby is between 2 and 12 percent.  As women get older, the pregnancy rate per frozen egg drops even further.

Here’s what I think. Egg freezing isn’t an insurance policy but rather an assurance policy. It’s given women peace of mind that if their family planning hasn’t turned out exactly as they planned, they have an option to stop the biological clock. I don’t look at the recent Facebook and Apple insurance changes as some evil conspiracy to hold women back from having children and relegate them to being slaves to their jobs. Nor is it just another amazing perk from tech companies. Rather this is a great step in the right direction for hopefully major change as it relates to women and basic family care. Perhaps this is a “baby” step (pun intended) towards a day in the near future that all IVF and other ART procedures are covered by insurance.  (It should be noted that not all insurance policies cover IVF and other fertility procedures. Every insurance company is different and it also differs by state. Fertility treatments (inclusive of egg freezing) is considered a luxury-that is the people are otherwise healthy and the health issue isn’t life-threatening) Because at the end of the day, until there are major changes in the way women are treated at work, the work life balance options out there, paid maternity leave, etc … that’s when the

 

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