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How Egg Freezing Descended Upon Cocktail Hour

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You can forget Arbonne or Tupperware parties. These days, modern women are gathering after work to swill cocktails and talk about freezing their eggs so they can give birth in the future.

Billed as a “free, fun, frozen, female, fact-based fertility event,” a large group of women chat in Frost Ice Bar, which as you’d probably guess, is entirely made of ice, in Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Draped in heavy duty parkas and gloves over their sundresses and sandals to offset the freezing temperatures of the room, they sip cocktails (in glasses made of ice, naturally) and talk. They’re all awaiting the appearance of doctors from Boston IVF, who are spearheading this party in the hopes of spreading more information about the egg freezing process to future-minded women.

To bring in the crowds of information seekers, Boston IVF sent emails to local graduate schools, and filled the waiting rooms at OBGYN offices with flyers about the event. But naturally, one of the most successful tools for recruiting women is social media.

“She saw this event on Facebook and it said ‘free drink at ice bar,’” Ruthie Bryan, 25, of Medford says as she points to her friend. “Maybe a couple weeks later we realized what the reasoning actually was, and I think we’ve all been curious. So why not?”

Theo LoPreste, Director of Marketing for Boston IVF, says egg-freezing parties offer women an opportunity to “take charge of their fertility.” He mentions a recent study, in which 53 percent of women who had their eggs frozen said they felt empowered by the experience. In a terrain where women are readily divulging secrets about their wardrobe, love lives, and sex lives, egg freezing seems like the last taboo in cocktail fodder. But more and more, women and doctors are framing egg freezing not as a last grasp at motherhood for the woefully single woman, but as an asset in the job market.

In fact, this week it was announced that companies from Apple to Facebook will now cover the cost of elective egg freezing for their female employees. In a gesture towards gender equality in the workplace and leveling the playing field, women surgically preserving their eggs is a way of outsmarting the waning biological clock and deferring motherhood for active work years. According to TIME, Facebook has had the policy in place since the start of the year and will cover up to $20,000 under its “lifetime surrogacy reimbursement” program under Aetna. Apple will start their egg freezing coverage come 2015. While critics remain dubious about the intentions of the new job perks, proponents hope the new trend will mend the divide for family-oriented employees.

“Egg Freezing has the ability to drastically change the landscape for career women who are feeling pressured, as it evens the playing field because the technology today allows females more choice in family building options,” says Dr. Alison Zimon of Boston IVF.

Most of the women in the ice bar appear to be in their twenties, with several thirty-somethings sprinkled throughout. Dr. Zimon and her colleague, Dr. Rita Sneeringer of Boston IVF, stand in front of the crowd, yelling out questions for the women to answer.

“When is the best time to get pregnant?” Dr. Sneeringer asked. Women shout out answers ranging from teen years to early thirties.

The doctors tell the crowd that women are at their most fertile in their late twenties, but because many women are waiting until later in life to have kids due to their careers, not having met the right person, or medical illness, it’s generally women in their 30s and 40s that find themselves undergoing in vitro fertilization. But that doesn’t mean younger women aren’t freezing their eggs. According to Dr. Zimon, women in their twenties frequently come through her office door to undergo the egg retrieval process. In fact, some receive the procedure as a college graduation gift from their parents.

“You’re young enough… you may be able to hit up mom and dad,” Zimon yells to the crowd. “A lot of patients come in, they’re graduation gifts, whatever. It’s expensive… about $5,000, or a little over that. But think about what it can offer you.”

Though the likelihood of getting pregnant is best in the late twenties, Drs. Zimon and Sneeringer say it all depends on the specific person.
“One question people always have is ‘what’s the chance I would get a baby out of these eggs?’” Zimon says to the crowd. “That’s hard to say, but we think about 5 to 7 eggs will give you a very good chance of having an embryo that will be good enough quality when fertilized. We don’t care who it is — your husband, your partner, your one-night stand, or your donor. When you fertilize that egg with a sperm, with 5 to 7 eggs you could get a very good chance of getting an embryo or two embryos that you could transfer to your uterus.”

No matter their age, several women in the crowd say they agree that they feel empowered by having the option to freeze their eggs for later use.
LaNitra Webb, 36, of Roxbury, says she’s interested in possibly freezing her eggs as a sort of insurance policy for the future.

“I just got my MBA from Simmons College, so I literally just graduated,” says Webb. “I’m 36, why wouldn’t I go and see what’s going on?”

Like many of the other women in the room, Webb says egg freezing is just another way to allow herself diverse choices in the future.
“Honestly the idea of it intrigues me,” says Webb. “I’m not in a relationship, and personally never wanted kids, but more than anything I’m trying to insure against the idea that I would change my mind and not have the option.”