Pandemic pregnancy fears may be sparking boom in egg freezing

bluecinema/iStockBy JESSICA MENDOZA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to halt plans for people around the world, women are thinking about their fertility future and taking family planning into their own hands.

“I do want a family, just not right now. I’m very focused on my career and creative pursuits and other things so egg freezing has always been a nice option for me to consider,” said 31-year-old Alison Stuckless, who made the decision to freeze her eggs in September.

When the pandemic hit, Stuckless said she was able to take the time needed for the process.

“It really appealed to me that I would be able to stay at home in my sweatpants and do the injections myself in the comfort of my own home,” she said.

Stuckless joins the many women who have turned to egg freezing amid the pandemic.

At New York University’s Langone Fertility Center, there’s been a 32% increase in women freezing their eggs since June, the facility said.

“I think that people are realizing there’s many paths to parenthood and that’s kind of aligned now with this pandemic, that people are not being forced but potentially pushed more to pursuing kind of alternative parenthoods,” said Dr. Meghan Smith, a California-based board-certified OBGYN who specializes in fertility.

Freezing one’s egg does not guarantee that one will successfully have a baby in the future but it can improve the odds of becoming pregnant.

“You have to be realistic,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN. “This is not a guarantee of a live birth or the family of your dreams down the road. It is one important piece of it, and it’s great that now we’re starting to see a shift in paradigm from treating infertility to being proactive about fertility.”

One of the reasons that women are turning to egg freezing is due to how the pandemic is affecting people financially. With many losing their jobs during this time, the idea of having a baby or starting a family can seem undoable.

But for others that have remained employed, they may have been able to save more money because of less expenditures for things like travel so now they can afford the costly procedures, which are typically $8,000 or more.

And if women are single, it’s hard to know when they’ll find a partner with so many social distancing orders in place around the country, which pushes plans back a few years for many especially if they are hitting advanced maternal age.

“I think now is not an optimal time to be dating,” Smith said. “It’s quite difficult with social distancing and the fears of COVID, and so I think women have just decided that they’re tired.”

While the process of egg retrieval is time consuming, and physically and emotionally demanding due to the hormones, women working from home are finding free time.

“They have the flexibility now to actually go to fertility clinics and have a consult for egg freezing or even do the process now that we’re doing a lot of our consults on Zoom,” said Smith.

Ashton points out that regardless of their situation, women need to approach egg freezing aware of all that it entails.

“You have to be able to commit a significant amount of time to this process,” she said. “Obviously you need to go into it aware of the financial and emotional and psychological strains.”

And for Stuckless, the weight of having a family now was lifted off her shoulders, making the procedure the right choice for her.

“I realize there’s no right way to have a family,” said Stuckless. “Once I did, it felt empowering to be able to do this for myself.”

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