Egg freezing goes mainstream

Doctors consider option a breakthrough in women's fertility


After a walk down the aisle ended in divorce, 34-year-old Melanie Bradshaw walked into a fertility clinic.

"I didn't want to give up that dream of still having that family and having the kids and everything," she said.

Bradshaw underwent a procedure to harvest and freeze her eggs, while continuing to search for Mr. Right.

"I think that it's taken the pressure off of my shoulders, and it allows me to go and date and meet people," explained Bradshaw.

No longer labeled 'experimental,' egg freezing has gone mainstream. Fertility experts across the country report a surge in healthy women choosing to put their eggs on ice, hoping to preserve their fertility for the future.  

Dr. Eric Widra with the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology credits the bump to significant advances in freezing technology.

"There are two primary ways that people freeze eggs," Widra explained. "We've optimized both of these technologies to the point where experienced centers now see comparable success rates from eggs that were frozen from either method to those that are fertilized fresh."

This makes freezing a hot topic among women ranging from their late 20s to early 40s.

"Now we feel like rather than an empty promise, there's real hope that we're giving patients," Widra added.

Psychologist Dr. Joann Galst says many of these patients are also buying time to focus on life goals, like finding a partner, finishing school or straightening out finances.

"There's also a focus on- for women on establishing their careers before they start their families," said Galst.

While egg banking may help "freeze" parenting plans, Widra says the technology is still considered young.  

Only about 2,000 babies have been born from frozen eggs worldwide, mainly via donation programs, "Where eggs are frozen from young women for a short period of time," explained Wilda. "So we don't yet know whether freezing eggs from older women, or for a longer period of time, will have consequences. We don't think it will, but we don't know yet."

Galst says it's also important to keep in mind that freezing eggs is not a fail-safe insurance policy.

"Even with high quality eggs, it's not a guarantee that there will be implantation and the live birth that results, which is the ultimate goal," she explained.

Bradshaw still plans to try and conceive naturally, but feels good having a backup plan in place.

"For me it's empowerment and it's made me a lot stronger," she said.

Egg freezing isn't typically covered by insurance.  With a price tag ranging from $5,000 to more than $10,000, plus medication costs and egg storage fees, more women are starting to plan ahead. 

Some are adding egg banking to their list of financial goals, while others are starting a separate savings account for the surgery.