The benefits of egg freezing can be life-changing, but many women feel uneasy taking such a significant personal and financial step without first discussing it with their parents—the prospect of which can be as daunting as the procedure itself.
Like the "sex talk" of our childhoods, chatting with your parents about freezing your eggs is likely to bring up uncomfortable questions about your body, your romantic life, your insecurities, and your future. (And, of course, your finances, given that one round of egg freezing costs at least $10,000.) This time, however, you'll be the one explaining the birds and bees … of oocyte retrieval and cryopreservation!
Difficult as it may be, the talk can provide you with the emotional support to take what many women describe as an empowering step, and to take it with your eyes open. We spoke with physicians, therapists, and other egg-freezing experts about the most productive way to have this conversation. And no, "heavy petting" doesn't come up once.
Step one: Know what you're talking about
Before you take this one to the mat, it’s good to know how the egg freezing process works. There will be questions, trust. Here are the basics:
Once you decide you want to freeze your eggs, you'll need to see an OBGYN to ensure that you’re a good candidate for the procedure. They’ll check your general and reproductive health, medical history, results of blood tests, and conduct a vaginal ultrasound.
Once you get the green light, you’ll be prescribed fertility medication that will boost your egg production. You'll take these meds for roughly two weeks. From there, your doctor will retrieve your eggs—a thirty-minute procedure at a fertility clinic, during which your eggs will be evaluated for quality and maturity. The viable candidates are then cryogenically preserved at a storage facility until you decide to use them.
When, and if, you decide to use your frozen eggs, they’ll be thawed, fertilized with sperm, and implanted in your uterus using in vitro fertilization (IVF). Babymaking at the clinic.
Step two: Anticipate pushback
As you broach the topic with your parents, prepare for pushback. There’s an outdated stigma attached to egg freezing that it’s an admission of failure, says Christy Jones, founder of Extend Fertility, a company that helps connect women with egg freezing clinics around the country—a perception that it's is only done by women whose lives haven’t worked out the way they hoped.
When it first became an option, elective egg freezing was predominantly pursued by women in their late thirties and forties. “They were doing it under duress," says Jones. "They didn’t have any other options." So if you're in your late twenties or early thirties, anticipate that a parent might try to tell you that you’ve got your priorities out of whack.
Sarah Elizabeth Richards, the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled, clued us into some of the common responses you may get from your parents:
“You could meet someone who wants to have kids. Why aren’t you making that more of a priority?”
“Why are you so picky about who you are dating?”
“Why are you working so hard? ‘Hard work’ isn’t going to love you when you’re old."
If greeted with responses along these lines, immediately reframe this conversation. Egg freezing is not an admission of failure. Rather, if a biological family is important to you and you know that childbearing is unlikely to happen in the next few years—law school, traveling abroad, a recent break-up—egg freezing might be something to consider, Richards says.
Also, know that you're not alone in going down this road. The company EggBanxx, which helps women finance egg freezing, has seen a 22 percent increase among women between the ages of 25 and 30 at its educational events. In fact, this demo currently makes up 25 percent of its client base, says Robin McCarthy, a senior vice president at the company.
While egg freezing is still far from a guarantee that you'll be able to have kids down the road (more on this later), it's quickly becoming a proactive choice young women realistically consider.
Step three: No, you're not too young to be having this conversation
You know that saying, “You’re putting the cart before the horse?” Don’t be surprised if one of your parents floats this idea—but know that this is not one of those times.
While many of us spend our twenties diving into careers and pursuing personal passions, our bodies are on a different jam. Take a look at this chart:
You’ll notice that around the age when many of us would be the worst parents (yes, you remember turning 22), you had the highest chance of conceiving; your odds were about 25 percent each month. By the time you’re in your thirties and starting to look at parenting as something you might not totally botch, your chance of conception steadily decreases. As your responsible-self matures, your fertility begins to decline. One of life’s biggest ironies.
“When you look at five-year intervals for women’s ages—25 to 30, 30 to 35, 35 to 40—there’s no question that egg fertility starts to dwindle,” Dr. Laurence Jacobs, a reproductive endocrinologist based in Chicago, tells Fusion. “If you can start your education process at 25, that’s great, and then maybe around thirty you might want to consider freezing your eggs” if parenthood isn’t immediately in the cards, he says.
One in ten women in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 44 will have trouble conceiving, so even if you decide against freezing your eggs, it’s not a bad idea to see where your fertility stands now, even if you’re nowhere near ready to have kids.
EggBanxx's McCarthy recommends a couple easy first steps to gauge your “ovarian reserve,” or the quality and quantity of your eggs. Talk to your doctor about two simple blood tests—the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) or Follicle-Stimulation Hormone (FSH) test—or an ultrasound procedure. You can typically get an ultrasound, the FSH, and an estrogen test for about $90.
Step four: Are you asking for financial support?
Egg freezing, like a Mercedes, is a great thing if you can afford it. So let’s get down to brass tacks: Are you here to ask your parents for financial support in addition to emotional support?
On average, you’re looking at a bill will start at $10,000—and probably creep higher. Here’s an approximate breakdown of the financial obligations of egg freezing. Bear in mind that many women need to undergo more than one cycle to increase their chances of success:
For many of us, unless you're one of the lucky few whose company pays for egg freezing, the price tag alone is a deal breaker—but it doesn’t have to be. EggBanxx was one of the first groups to offer financing for the procedure, but McCarthy says many banks now offer this option. “You can start with little to nothing down, and then get a plan to pay $250 a month,” she tells Fusion. “Think of it like a monthly car payment.”
Step five: This isn't an insurance policy
One thing egg freezing is not: a guarantee. While some, like Lisa Schuman, director of mental health services at Reproductive Medical Associates of Connecticut, tout it as “the single most important development in women’s reproductive empowerment since the birth control pill,” the truth is that, most of the time, egg freezing does not successfully lead to a baby.
In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine doesn't even keep data on egg freezing yet, and cautions against relying on it to have a baby—it's still too new.
For this reason, doctors are quick to stress that egg freezing isn’t an insurance policy, but a back-up plan. Even if you do freeze your eggs, when you’re ready to have kids, you should still try the "old-fashioned way" first, says Dr. Elizabeth Fino, a reproductive endocrinologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, and you shouldn't put it off for too long.
As young women increasingly look to egg freezing as a way of family planning, a concern within the medical community is that one unintended consequence of this technology is the promotion of delayed childbearing among our generation. “The reality is it’s never a perfect time in your life to have kids,” Fino says. “Just because you’ve frozen your eggs, doesn’t mean you should wait to procreate.”
That said, if you've done your homework and you think that freezing your eggs could give you some additional peace of mind as you make your way in the world, share these realities with your parents—the lack-of-a-guarantee is part of what makes the decision so difficult, and for many, family support so crucial.
Finally, it’s not just the intimacy of the egg freezing talk that parallels the sex talk your parents gave you as a kid—it’s also the fact that this shouldn’t just be limited to one fixed conversation. It should be a continual one.
“Your fertility is an education,” says Fino. The more we can talk openly—with our doctors, our friends, and our families—about the medical realities of having kids, the better off we'll be. If you're not already talking about it? Girl, get up on it.
Cleo Stiller is a digital producer covering the intersections of sex, tech and culture. Words to live by: get your money's worth.