"Egg freezing is seen as this big revolution now, like the Pill was for reproductive rights, women's health, and family planning in the 1960s," said Dr.
Frederick Licciardi, a fertility expert and OB/GYN at NYU, who says about 20 percent of his patients now request oocyte cryopreservation, in large part, he
believes, because of all the positive press. But egg freezing, he reminds patients, isn't like the birth control pill yet (in terms of cost, relative ease,
or outcome), and women need to understand that while it may feel empowering to freeze their eggs, it's far from a foolproof method to optimize career
success and family planning.
"I think the media is fascinated with this," Licciardi explained, "because as many great steps as we have made in our society, this is first method of
female empowerment that feels really big and new in a long time."
But a woman's egg is only one part of the fertility equation. Dr. Irene Su, a reproductive endocrinologist and clinical researcher the University of
California, San Diego, works primarily with breast cancer survivors and patients interested in medical freezing. "No matter how old the woman, whether
they've had cancer or not," said Dr. Su, "the chances of success of egg freezing and implementation and ultimately a viable pregnancy are about the overall
health of the mother. It's a bigger picture than just when and if you froze your eggs." Regardless of the age of a woman's eggs, those who get pregnant
later in life have a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, pelvic inflammation, placenta previa, miscarriage, and early delivery because of
The media is also ignoring the very real issue of how cost-effective egg freezing actually is for women in their mid to late thirties (assuming they want
to thaw their eggs after age 40) -- and how much each year makes a difference, much like it does for natural fertility rates, where a woman's chances of
becoming pregnant decrease by 15 percent annually after age 35.
Dr. Nicole Noyes, co-director of the NYU Fertility Center and professor at the NYU School of Medicine, studied 900 women, asking: is it more cost-effective
to freeze your eggs before you're 40, than to arrive at a fertility clinic at 40 to freeze your eggs or try in vitro fertilization for the first time?
Noyes and her research team constructed a model, presented as an abstract in the journal Fertility and Sterility, to determine whether egg
freezing is a cost-effective method of treating age-related infertility, as measured by live birth success rates from previously observed clinical
Noyes found that for women younger than 39 who were delaying childbirth, egg freezing alone (with no other fertility measures) was a
cost-effective means of increasing their likelihood of having a biological child. Freezing after 39, however, was not cost-effective compared to multiple
rounds of IVF. Women who froze their eggs between 30 and 35 had a 61 to 72 percent chance of successfully having a baby, at a cost per live birth of
$34,221 to $43,408. But egg freezing after 37 or 38 starts to look less compelling, according to Noyes's data, with success rates falling to as low as 42
percent, and the cost per live birth rising dramatically to as high as $74,564 by age 40.
"Of course for most women I see," Dr. Noyes said, "the issue isn't about money. It's about having a healthy baby -- and that's really all they care about."
And those, it seems, are the only stories the media finds worth telling.