Recent Developments in Fertility Research

Frozen assets that women can bank on in the future

By Melissa Heckscher Staff Writer Article

So there I am at the doctor’s office getting my yearly checkup when my cheery-faced physician looks at me and briskly suggests that, well, maybe it’s time to consider freezing my eggs.

“What?” I clamor, thinking only: “Am I that old?”

“If I didn’t already have two kids,” she continues, “I’d do it.”

She says this casually, as if freezing one’s eggs were as easy as popping a few bagels in the freezer so you can eat them, unspoiled, several months from now.

“Well, you know,” she adds. “The clock is ticking.”

Great. There you have it: I am, according to my eggs, officially getting old.

It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. I mean, I am almost 34. It’s been at least five years since babies started trumping puppies when it comes to getting me all gaga.

Not to mention, I’ve already had all those stereotypical, thirtysomething, Bridget Jones-esque conversations with my mother, the ones in which she asks me, “When are you going to settle down and have babies?” and I say, “Oh, OK. I’ll get right on that, Mom.”

But freezing my eggs? I hadn’t thought about it. Until now.

“In this day and age, there are many women who are educated and they’re not thinking about kids,” said Dr. John Jain, a reproductive endocrinologist and founder of Santa Monica Fertility, a medical facility specializing in egg-freezing.

He continued: “If a woman freezes her eggs at 32, she can be her own donor at 42 when she’s like,`OK I’m done with my career, I’m ready to have a baby now.'”

It’s new technology, but it works. To date, Jain has brought nearly 25 babies into the world from frozen eggs with another 15 on the way; about 600 such babies have been born worldwide.

“This is emancipating women in many ways,” he said. “The pill was the first great emancipator. … But this is the second one. A woman can now say, `Well, I don’t want to get pregnant right now, but I do in the future.’ “

Thirty-seven-year-old “Jenny,” from Manhattan Beach, agreed.

Six months ago, the Alabama native decided to put her biological clock on ice. She scrounged up her limited funds and got a few of her eggs frozen at Santa Monica Fertility’ Egg Freezing Center.

“It’s not like I’ve given up on having a baby, but now I feel like I’m not in that big of a hurry,” she said. “This is a backup plan.”

And an expensive one.

The egg-freezing process, a four- to six-week program involving multiple hormone injections and an extraction process that’s done under intravenous sedation, costs about $15,000.

Of course, that doesn’t include the $600 a year it costs to keep the eggs frozen and the $5,000 or so it costs to fertilize and implant them when the time comes. Insurance doesn’t cover the procedure, though some plans may cover the medications used beforehand.

What about adoption, you might ask? It’s an even longer process that can take several years and can cost up to $40,000 (with the average adoption costing about $25,000).

“You can feel like a loser and say, `I’m having to do this,’ but it’s like, `No, I’m choosing to do this,’ ” Jenny said. “This took a lot of the pressure off of me feeling like I had to find someone and get married right now. Now I can wait for the right person.”

But here’s my problem: This whole egg-freezing thing is an understandable proposition when you’re single; it’s a little more difficult a hurdle to navigate when you’re in a relationship.

I’ve got a boyfriend – a wonderful one, at that. But let’s be honest: The “Honey, let’s talk about my eggs” conversation isn’t exactly fodder for the dinner table. We’ve only been dating eight months, after all.

Then again, wouldn’t he agree that it’d be nice to just, you know, not worry about it? To not rush our relationship for the sake of babies we’re not ready for (yet).

“This way, you can actually go and enjoy yourself,” Jain said. “A guy will be like, `Oh, you probably want to talk about babies,’ and you can say, “Actually, no I don’t. I want to go and have a good time and see if you’re really a nice guy.’ “

Hmmm. Anyone want to lend me $20,000?

For more information about the Egg Freezing Center, go to www.eggfreezingcenter.com.

melissa.heckscher@dailybreeze.com

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