Opinion

Egg freezing has become standard practice for big companies, but what are the pros and cons?

By Nassia Matsa

Published Nov 28, 2019 at 11:25 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

In an attempt to encourage a work and life balance and close its embarrassing gender pay gap, which reaches to 50,6 per cent, Goldman Sachs launched its new benefit scheme for its employees earlier this month—a fund of $20,000 (£15,400) to cover the costs of extracting or purchasing donated eggs for prospect parents.

This is not the first time a company announces a scheme of that nature. In 2014, tech-titans Apple and Facebook made headlines when they announced that they would include the option of egg freezing among their work benefits. Goldman’s ‘Pathways to parenthood’ project also includes delivering mothers’ breast milk to their children should they have to be away for work, and offers emergency nannies to look after unwell children.

While the efforts of a company of monstrous power to close gender pay gaps should not be dismissed, the reality is that it won’t solve mothers’ problems and maintain a work and life balance. Rather, it will only increase their time spent at work by preventing women from being there for their families or even being present to in order to create one.

Egg freezing is a method of fertility preservation. Some women wish to freeze their eggs for medical reasons, such as cancer or any other illness that may trigger early menopause (in that case the process of egg freezing can be funded by NHS). Alternatively, other women go for ‘social egg freezing’, referring to women who wish to conceive at an older age due to career or high-risk career jobs (such as working in the army) or women who have yet to start hormone therapy when wishing to go through a sex change.

“The process overall lasts 12 to 40 days, beginning with the woman’s circle,” explained Suvir Venkataraman, the general manager at Harley Street Fertility Clinic in London. The ovaries are hyperstimulated with hormone injections in order to produce more than a single egg (which is usually produced in one menstrual circle). The eggs are then retrieved with a needle via a low-risk surgical procedure,  individually fast-frozen via a method called vitrification, and placed in liquid nitrogen until needed. The eggs can usually be stored for up to ten years.

“The treatment costs £3,500 but the medicine can cost from £600 to £1,800 depending on the patient. Overall we’re issuing a cost of £4,000 to £5,500 per circle,” says Venkataraman. On top of the costs, you will need to undergo the procedure to fertilise the eggs (called ICSI) and factor in the potential of more circles needed in order to bank 10 to 20 eggs for a successful outcome, as only a small percentage of eggs are mature and capable of being fertilised. The success rate? “In the past, the survival rate of frozen eggs was 30 per cent now its 90 per cent,” shares Venkataraman.

It’s hard to give a definite answer, however, as only 2,000 babies have been born worldwide from frozen eggs, 700 of them in the UK, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In 2017, only 19 per cent of IVF treatments using the patient’s own frozen eggs were successful. Furthermore, regardless of the condition of the fertile eggs themselves, older patients are at an increased risk for miscarriages and pregnancy-related complications.

Freezing fresh embryos (either from a donor or the patient’s partner), on the other hand, has a higher success rate, as embryos are not affected by the length of time they are frozen for. The process has helped prospect parents, and Hannah Selinger was one of the patients who had frozen her eggs, too. Sellinger spent $17,000 and claims that she regretted the whole process. She conceived naturally and, sardonically, during her pregnancy had found out that her eggs were destroyed. The reason was a lapse in communication, as she didn’t receive the egg-rent reminders due to her moving to a new place.

Discussing Goldman Sachs’s scheme, Sellinger said that despite her experience she isn’t against egg freezing, and that she believes the problem lies elsewhere. “I think the real problem is to care about mothers, make sure that that mothers take six months to a year off, and that should be the case for paternity leave, too. It would be wiser for my government to move into that direction rather than ban abortions, I am only able to have children cause my husband makes enough money from me to do what I do.”

While Venkataraman claims, “It’s really nice that we can help someone, because it means that they’ll do as they please. Because we all live longer, our quality of life is better, we are able to stretch our biological clock and egg freezing allows women to do that with fertility as well. It’s a great option but I don’t think the socio-political system should force someone to do it.” If you wish to freeze your eggs, feel free to do it. But don’t do it because your company told you to, because your company won’t care about you—it will care about the money you’re making.

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