It wasn’t a typical evening at a bar. Instead of having drinks and catching up with friends on a recent weeknight, about 70 women were having drinks and learning about freezing their eggs as an option to prolong their child-bearing years.
Dr. Rita Sneeringer and Dr. Alison Zimon, reproductive endocrinologists from Boston IVF, had invited about 90 women in their 30s to the Frost Ice Bar on State Street to talk about the procedure, which can allow women to put off having a child without worrying about decreasing fertility.
Egg freezing has become more popular as it has become more available and affordable. In 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) removed the procedure’s “experimental” designation, leading to wider availability. Insurance does not typically cover the cost of egg freezing.
Sneeringer and Zimon had a clear message for the women gathered at Frost Bar: Think about freezing your eggs now, so you don’t have to worry about your fertility timeline later.
Chances of pregnancy decline with age, and past research has suggested that the chances of getting pregnant decline precipitously after age 35. But in a 2013 Fertility and Sterility study, 78 percent of 35- to 40-year-olds who had sex during the most fertile time in their cycles got pregnant within a year, compared to 84 percent of women ages 20 to 34.
While the event could be considered marketing for Boston IVF, Sneeringer and Zimon focused their message about egg freezing on the potential for “lifetime insurance” for having a child.
But egg freezing does not guarantee a future pregnancy, and should only be considered after thorough counseling, said Dr. Thomas Toth, director of the in vitro fertlization unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. While no comprehensive numbers exist on success rates for pregnancies from frozen eggs, studies have suggested that rates using frozen eggs are similar to those of IVF with eggs that were not frozen. Also, the process for freezing eggs can involve injecting hormones daily before having eggs extracted.
“It can be a wonderful tool when carefully thought out and reviewed. It’s not a simple tool where somebody should plop down some money,” Toth said.
Sneeringer and Zimon said they decided to hold the event at the bar to make the talk more comfortable, and less embarrassing for women who are considering the procedure to ask questions and talk to others in similar situations.
“I fear as I’m getting a little older, it’ll be harder to get pregnant, so it’s good to explore options. And I want to have a family,” said Ashley, a 31-year-old who only gave her first name. “My mom tells me I should get my eggs frozen, so now she can be happy I’m learning about it.”
Ashley and her friend Alvona, a 31-year-old fitness trainer, attended together after they heard about the event through a Facebook invitation. Both said they enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere because a trip to a doctor’s office could be uncomfortable, dissuading them from pursuing egg freezing altogether.
Many of the purple coat-clad women in the 23-degree bar were childless, but some had children. Cori Lech, a 31-year-old director of medicine and clinical operations at United Healthcare, is a mother of one who wants to delay having her second child.
She convinced her friend, Meg Sullivan, 30, to come with her. Sullivan had never thought much about freezing her eggs, she said, but knows she’s past her “fertility prime,” according to the Boston IVF doctors.
“It lessens the stigma to have [the event] here,” Sullivan said. “You have a cocktail in hand among other women who are also interested.”
It was clear from the attendance at the event that it’s something young women are thinking about. Boston IVF plans to hold a similar event in the fall.