Egg freezing, the nebulous scientific concept that allows families to conceive at their convenience, is getting plenty of attention lately. Now there are even social events women can attend to learn more about this procedure, which is being touted as a way to potentially transform their careers. Behold: The egg-freezing "party".
Behind the snappiest brand — Egg Freezing Party — is Dr Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a reproductive endocrinologist in San Ramon, who hosted the first of three Bay Area events last night. At a North Beach restaurant in San Francisco, women drank wine and noshed on shrimp and prosciutto while Eyvazzadeh explained the scientific process, including the side effects of the medication that women must take to prepare themselves for the surgical procedure. "It is indeed a surgery," she says. "I joke and say it's not just like a woman can watch a sexy movie and put her eggs in a cup."
She also talks about the options to freeze sperm, which is something that most men don't consider, and the cost of egg retrieval and in-vitro fertilisation, which can range from $US15,000 to over $US30,000, plus about $US500 per year of egg storage.
Of course the parties themselves (which are $US20 per ticket, but proceeds go to an infertility nonprofit) also serve as promotion for Eyvazzadeh's own fertility practice, which offers attendees 10 per cent off a future procedure. And in the spirit of the old Tupperware or Avon parties of yore, if a woman hosts her own egg-freezing party to spread the gospel, she'll get even more of a discount.
While companies like Apple and Facebook recently got showered with press for pledging to pay for egg freezing, many women rightly argue that it's not enough — companies actually need to be doing way more for employees' reproductive rights. Eyvazzadeh agrees that covering the astronomical cost of freezing your eggs is an incremental step that companies are taking, but they still need to offer more benefits to parents. "Having childcare onsite at work, making it easier to be a single parent and still be extremely successful in the workforce — anything to create a more supportive workplace for families would be amazing."
Networking events like this are smart, and a pretty clear sign this controversial process is going mainstream. But while it's always good for women to be able to share complicated health information in a casual setting, hopefully the overriding message is clear: egg-freezing is not a cure-all for infertility issues, nor is it a sure thing. While advances have certainly made the procedure far more effective in recent years, there is still a very large chance that a woman using her own frozen eggs will not be able to get pregnant.
Eyvazzadeh covers this as well: By factoring together a woman's age, fertility indicators, and the number of eggs retrieved per cycle, she says she can provide a fairly accurate and realistic estimate for success.
"No matter how educated you are, we have to do a better job as society to educate women about their fertility," she says. Much of this wisdom only comes in hindsight, like the advice that her 40-plus patients want to pass along to younger women. "All my patients say, 'I wish I'd frozen my eggs.'" [CityLab, SF Chronicle]
Picture: Egg Freezing Party