In the new book “Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and The Women Who Tried It” (Simon & Schuster, $25), Manhattan journalist Sarah Elizabeth Richards tells how, once she hit age 36, she froze 70 of her eggs to possibly prolong her ability to have a biological child.
Richards was feeling increasing pressure to meet a man and have kids before her fertility plummeted. “You’re in this state all the time of anxiety, loss and grieving,” she said in a telephone interview. She called freezing “a dream come true. The relief is so profound. It stopped the grief dead in its tracks.”
Richards thought other women she calls “clock tickers” who are considering egg freezing could benefit from a book that explained how it works — hormone injections increase the number of eggs that mature in a month’s cycle, then doctors surgically extract them from the ovaries. The eggs are frozen and stored until the woman is ready to become pregnant. Then the eggs are thawed, fertilized in the laboratory, and implanted in the uterus. The woman would be pregnant with her own younger, more viable eggs.
In addition to laying out the medical facts, the short history of egg freezing, and the stark statistics about its success rate, Richards’ book tells the story of three of women who froze their eggs who then tried to have children. Only one succeeded; a picture of her baby daughter is on the cover of Richards’ book.
Richards also looks at what freezing did for her and the other women psychologically apart from medically. Freezing her eggs eliminated the “panic” Richards was feeling and enabled her to relax for the past several years. “You’ve done something really good for yourself. You’ve taken back control of your fertility,” she says. “Even if a baby didn’t result, the psychological value is so big.”
Egg freezing had been considered experimental by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in part because the results were poor. But freezing techniques have improved and in October of 2012 the ASRM changed its opinion. Women who currently freeze their eggs have closer to a 50 percent chance of success, Richards says, depending in part on the number and quality of their eggs.
Richards, now 42 and still single though in a relationship, spent about $50,000 for eight cycles of egg freezing to reassure herself she would have enough eggs to try for two biological children. Her parents helped shoulder the cost.
Normally, freezing costs $10,000 to $12,000 per cycle, plus thousands of dollars for drugs and several hundred a year for storage. The number of eggs harvested per cycle varies from woman to woman; Richards says having 30 eggs per anticipated child seemed the right number to her based on her research. Richards did some of her cycles in the United States and some in Canada, where it was less expensive.
“Only time will tell whether my stockpiling was sheer lunacy or good planning,” she writes in the book.