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Later, Baby: Will Freezing Your Eggs Free Your Career?




There comes a point in every childless woman’s life, usually around 35, when the larger world becomes very interested in her womb. Friends and family inquire about its health, asking why it’s not being utilized, when it will be, and then: Will it even work? For those who do want children, the pressure can be crushing and counterproductive. “I found myself going on dates thinking, is this marriage material? Is this? Is he? It was exhausting,” says Dr. Suzanne LaJoie, an ob-gyn in Manhattan. “When I was in med school and residency, all my friends were having babies.” She went through a breakup in her mid-30s and started to worry she wouldn’t be able to have a child of her own. So in 2007, at age 37, she paid $10,000 for a round of oocyte cryopreservation, more commonly known as egg freezing. “I just wanted to take the pressure off,” LaJoie says. “Men don’t have a biological clock, and I felt like it leveled the playing field a bit.”

LaJoie fits the typical profile of an egg freezer: They’re great at their jobs, they make a ton of money, and they’ve followed all of Sheryl Sandberg’s advice. But the husband and baby haven’t materialized, and they can recite the stats about their rapidly decreasing fertility as a depressing party trick. For LaJoie, now 45, it was demoralizing to see friend after friend get married and have kids, while she was stuck at the hospital without romantic prospects.

“You feel bad about yourself, like you’re the odd man out, and somehow you’ve messed up on your path,” says Sarah Elizabeth Richards, who spent $50,000 freezing several rounds of eggs in 2006 to 2008 and wrote a book about the experience, Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. “By freezing, you’ve done something about it. You’re walking taller; your head is held higher. And that can pay off in both your work and romantic lives.” Richards, now 43, is dating someone promising and says she’d like to thaw her eggs in the next year or so. She’s also at work on a new book and plans on finishing it before she tries to get pregnant. “Egg freezing gives you the gift of time to start a family, but it’s also, like, here’s how many years I actually have left for my other goals—what can I do with them?”

LaJoie got married soon after she froze (she told her husband about it on their very first date: “I was upfront and said, ‘This is my plan.’ He was, like, ‘OK!’ ”) and had her first baby naturally at 39. A few years later, after briefly trying fertility drugs, she thawed her eggs. The implantation worked, and her second son is 2 years old. “If I’d had kids when I was a resident, I wouldn’t have been able to spend any time with them—I was working a gazillion hours a week,” she says. “Now I can bring my 5-year-old to kindergarten every day.” In a 2013 New York University study of 183 women who’d frozen their eggs, 19 percent said they might have had a child earlier if their workplace had been more flexible.

The egg freezing generation, those latchkey kids of glass-ceiling breakers, were taught “that you create your career, and then everything else falls into place,” says Lauren, a 34-year-old lawyer in Los Angeles who froze her eggs in January and, like many of the women interviewed for this article, declined to reveal her full name in a national magazine for fear of staying single forever. “But now I know it’s not as easy as that.” Work hard, put off kids, and you might find yourself at 40 hearing a fertility doctor deliver the bad news. According to a 2008 analysis of data from the National Survey of Family Growth, among women 40 to 44, there are equal numbers of those who are childless by choice and those who would like to have children but can’t conceive.

Not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning. The average age of women who freeze their eggs is about 37, down from 39 only two years ago. (“Desperation level,” as Brigitte Adams, a marketing director at a Los Angeles software company who froze her eggs at 39, puts it.) And fertility doctors report that more women in their early 30s are coming in for the procedure. Not only do younger women have healthier eggs, they also have more time before they have to use them.

Read more: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-17/new-egg-freezing-technology-eases-womens-career-family-angst#p1
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