Hearts and Eggs

On this Valentine’s Day, freezing your eggs may be the best gift you can give to yourself. Although egg freezing is technically a medical procedure, research has indicated that it may provide great emotional benefits for those who wish to postpone pregnancy.

There has been a steady rise in society’s acceptance and excitement around egg freezing. People can now elect to cryopreserve their eggs in order to extend their fertility and gain more control over their reproductive futures.

As a therapist and family building coach, I have worked with hundreds of people who have elected to freeze their eggs. In my own research on egg freezing and the research done by my colleagues, it has been indicated that people often feel fortunate to have an opportunity to delay childbearing, and often experience a sense of relief and empowerment, for having done so.

The first human birth from a frozen oocyte was reported in 1986, according to the Practice Committee of the ASRM (Fertility and Sterility 2013). There is no current indication that there is an increase in congenital anomalies or other health issues in children born from frozen eggs, when compared to the general U.S. population. This research led the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) to remove the term “experimental” from the procedure in 2012, as they concluded the procedure was safe.

In the research I conducted, I found that individuals who freeze their eggs are typically well-educated, and forward thinking. People who delay childbearing for personal and/or professional reasons are responding proactively to their fertility and family building potential, and often find egg freezing empowering. This experience parallels the1960s, when birth control pills became an available form of contraception, which empowered people to make new, reproductive choices.

In addition to having this opportunity to possibly determine the timing of their family building, in one study, people who were asked about their motivations for freezing their eggs most frequently stated they wished to avoid self-blame in the event they later attempted a pregnancy and were unable to conceive. Egg freezing may alleviate this pressure because, although not a guarantee, does provide an opportunity for individuals to finish school, establish themselves in their careers and/or find the right partner, and not feel as anxious about their biological clock.

Positive feelings about egg freezing seem to extend to the general population as well as to people who have already undergone treatment. In 2011, when looking at a population of reproductive aged individuals, a Belgian researcher, Dominick Stoop, reported that 31.5% of the women of childbearing age would consider themselves future egg freezing patients. In studying patients who completed the process of egg freezing, he found 96% of these patients would elect to repeat the process. Five years later, this procedure has become even more common, not just with celebrities, but with the general population.

In the research I conducted in 2012, I found that unlike IVF or other fertility treatments, people who pursued egg freezing felt proud of their decision. They did not become depressed like their IVF counterparts often did, and were, in fact, happy to share their egg freezing experience with friends and family. This was a noteworthy finding because, while egg freezing patients receive similar medical treatments as infertility patients, infertility patients often report feeling depressed and ashamed, and often do not share their treatment information with friends and family.

Every day we are gaining a better understanding of the needs, motivations and intentions of people considering egg freezing. Currently, the majority of those who elect to cryopreserve their eggs feel the procedure is important to their emotional well being and will help sustain their hope of becoming parents in the future. For many who have not been ready to conceive for either medical or emotional reasons, egg freezing is a medical and emotional gift.

Lisa Schuman, LCSW is founding Director of The Center for Family Building and Director of Mental Health Services at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut