The coronavirus pandemic changed life in many ways, from the way we work and shop, to the way we think about hand hygiene and mask wearing when we’re unwell. But for many, it also made us consider our fertility. So much so, that there’s been a sharp rise in the number of women choosing to freeze their eggs and preserve their fertility until it’s their chosen time think about parenthood.
The BBC reports that in the US, egg freezing procedures have increased 39% on pre-pandemic levels and in the UK in 2020, enquiries into the process rose by 50%
Many women and cupels decided to delay parenthood during the pandemic and although egg freezing holds no guarantees, many have found peace of mind.
One woman who has chosen this path is New Yorker Sarah Siegel who went through a relationship breakup at the age of 35 in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak. She told the BBC, “Given that it was still the peak of the pandemic, I knew it was going to be hard to meet someone new anytime soon. Even when I do meet someone, I don’t want to feel rushed or pressured to try and get pregnant because of my age.”
She spotted an influencer post on Instagram detailing the egg freezing process and gave it some serious thought. Within a month, she’d started her first cycle of egg freezing. “I felt like this was a way to buy myself some time and give myself a back-up plan” she says.
Sarah underwent a second round of egg retrieval in December 2020 to increase her chances of one day being able to use a viable egg, and hasn’t yet undergone any fertilisation or implantation procedures.
Sarah now says she’s relaxed about her future fertility and has “peace of mind”
Sarah’s typical of the new trend of educated, single women employed in high pressure jobs and in their mid to late 30s who for various reasons are delaying motherhood and giving themselves some kind of insurance policy for the future. The BBC says that according to research conducted in 2021, “women who undergo elective egg freezing are commonly single, between 36 and 40 years of age, Caucasian, with higher education and employment”.
In the UK, the average age that a women becomes a first time parent is now at a record high of 30.7 years old and women giving birth in their 40s is also an all-time high.
It’s thought this is down to a combination of better contraception, education and workplace opportunities for women as well as economic uncertainty among younger women. The pandemic has also meant that it became harder for couples to meet. The rise in flexible working has also made egg freezing appointments and procedures easier to fit around work without having to ask time off or tell colleagues and managers why.
But it isn’t a cheap process with an average cost of around £7,000 to £8,000, so it comes with a certain level of privilege. Some women are fortunate enough to be employed by businesses where the costs are covered by insurance, but many others are self-funding the procedure.
LA based fertility coach, Elizabeth King says, “There are quite a few start-ups and tech companies that are offering egg freezing as a benefit to draw in the younger generation and keep them working harder, without the distraction of stepping out to build a family. This means that generally most women who are freezing their eggs are within a higher-income bracket.”
Elizabeth told the BBC that she thinks the sharp rise in the popularity of egg freezing is down to many factors
“With a growing global cost of living crisis, a sharp rise in people changing jobs and fears about the lasting impact of the pandemic, people in long-term partnerships are putting off pregnancy.” Through her practice, she’s also noticed more women in their late 30s and early 40 seeking egg freezing guidance, and an increase in black and Latina women through the past few years.
Self-administered injections, hormonal side effects causing physical and emotional symptoms and uncomfortable extraction procedures can take their toll, so egg freezing is a decision that needs thought, information and support.
There are no guarantees either, women below 35 years old have a success rate of having a baby using frozen eggs of around 18%. This drops to around 7% if a woman is over 35 years old at the time of egg retrieval.
If you’re considering egg freezing, make sure you fully research the procedure and your chosen clinic – and we wish you all the best for what could truly have a wonderful outcome.
Have you frozen your eggs? If you would like to share your egg freezing journey, we would love to hear from you at email@example.com. Are you considering egg freezing? If you have any questions on this, do contact our experts for advice on next steps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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