Egg-freezing parties: A good idea?
The champagne is flowing, trays of canapés are being passed around and well-dressed women in their 30s are chatting to one another as they listen to a presentation. Is it a perfume sale? A fashion event? A makeup demonstration?
No. Welcome to an egg-freezing party. Where women are educated on the science of freezing their eggs and the offer of putting your fertility on hold is openly discussed.
The parties are a hit in New York among single women, and while yet to reach our shores, the sentiment is one that a lot of Australasian women would welcome.
"I'd love to go to one of these parties!" says Bianca Gonzales, 35. "I don't have a serious boyfriend and the thought has crossed my mind. I've had one of those egg count tests which says I'm fine but as I get older ...The more information we can get about it the better," she says.
Egg-freezing party? Is this like a Tupperware party only instead of talking about the most efficient way to store food, they talk about the efficiency with which you can prolong your fertility?
Exactly. While the procedures (thankfully) don't happen on the night, information is bandied about and women can ask questions in a comfortable, wine-fuelled environment.
Katie Clark, a 35-year-old real estate agent, says she's already looked into freezing her eggs. "I didn't purposely concentrate on my career, I just didn't meet a man by the time I turned 35, which I'd decided was the cut-off. Better to freeze them now than be left without children if I don't meet a man til I'm 40," she says.
Janice Blackburn says she would consider freezing her eggs and could be interested in attending an egg-freezing party.
"I'm 32, I'm single and having fun right now. I don't want the next guy I meet to feel as though he has to marry me and have kids straight away," she says frankly. "I don't want to be in a hurry about things."
And that's the key. The pressure on women to have children by a certain age is very real. We hear so much about our fertility declining as we age, if we're single and nearing our mid-30s, it's hard to ignore, let alone having entered our late 30s. When you do meet a man you might want to reproduce with, you don't want to be in a hurry about the relationship progressing, which in fact may do the opposite.
The medical director of Genea, Australia's world leading fertility group, Associate Professor Mark Bowman, agrees.
"We have noticed and discussed, as doctors, that a reasonable proportion of ladies that have frozen their eggs have gone on to meet somebody serious within the next year or two after freezing their eggs. So it may stop them from hassling the guy to have babies by dessert on the first date."
To freeze her eggs a woman is given hormones to inject for a few weeks to inflate egg production, then the eggs are harvested in line with their natural cycle during day surgery with a local anesthetic. The eggs are then vitrified - snap frozen - which means they don't form icicles and thaw better when needed, to be fertilised with sperm and implanted back into the woman.
"The younger the eggs, the higher the success rate is for a woman to conceive," Bowman says. "You need to weigh up the actual chance of having a baby through freezing one lot of eggs compared to what you think your background chance is of getting pregnant over the next few years.
''One of the problems is, the success rate of using a woman's frozen eggs is going to be higher if they're younger, but the younger you are the more likely it is you'll meet the right person in time. So it has a very low return once you are moving into your late 30s."
The company holding egg-freezing parties in New York, EggBanxx, is offering egg-freezing services at about 40 per cent below the cost of traditional services and while it hasn't yet entered the market here, Bowman says "with fertility treatments you get what you pay for''.
''The issue is because there's a cost involved, you spend a lot of money and you won't know if the eggs will work until you use them. The majority of women will never use them," he says.
It can cost about $12,000 freeze eggs for ''social'' reasons, rather than having to freeze them because of medical issues, which qualify for a rebate (more information on costs can be found here).
Fertility issues are very personal and not generally openly discussed. Are egg-freezing parties a good idea then, to break down the stigma associated with it?
"We want people talking about fertility issues," Bowman says. "We should as a society help women to hold all the balls they're juggling in the air.
''You know, they're thinking about their career, wondering if they'll have a baby, is this the right guy, is this not the right guy, what about the mortgage, not to mention childcare. It can be all too challenging. If we can at least talk about fertility issues, it may help."
So an open dialogue about freezing your eggs in a party atmosphere might not be such an outlandish idea after all.
Sydney Morning Herald