MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When and how women decide to have a family is changing. In some cases, women are postponing parenthood to focus on their career.
Apple and Facebook are now even offering to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs.
Those companies may be in Silicon Valley, but a growing number of women here in Minnesota are using medical advances to freeze their biological clocks.
Whether it’s maintaining a healthy diet or excelling in her consulting career, Jasmine Stringer has a take-charge attitude. Just look no farther than her lifestyle blog, Carpe Diem, which she showcases on WCCO.
“The blog is about how people can seize the day and make the most of their everyday life,” Stringer said.
But when it comes to seizing a family, life hasn’t gone as planned.
“It’s just taken a little longer for me to meet the guy of my dreams than I thought,” she said. “When I was in college I expected to get married at 25, be married for a couple years, have a baby at 25, another at 27. And here I am in my early 30s and that’s not happened.”
Stringer may not be alone in her experience. Research shows the rate of women having babies in their late 20s has declined 2 percent per year since 2008, according to the Center for Disease Control. For older women, the rates have increased. The birth rate for women between the ages of 35 and 39 increased by two percent in 2012.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information finds reasons may be more effective contraception, economic uncertainty, or increases for women in education and job options.
But for millennials, it’s more possible now than ever to put off parenthood. Especially at the University of Minnesota Physicians Reproductive Medicine Center, where young women are taking advantage of a unique program geared at those wanting a family — just not now.
“Sometimes but not always they’re single, haven’t found their partner yet and are really focusing on themselves and their career, and that’s not a priority for them at the time,” Dr. Phoebe Leonard, a Reproductive Endocrinologist at the Physicians Reproductive Medicine Center, said. “But they know this may become an issue for them and they want to have options later on.”
The center began offering a program that determines how much time is left on a woman’s biological clock. It’s called the BioClock Baby Plan fertility assessment. The screening includes a blood test and ultrasound of a woman’s ovaries.
“Women are born with all the eggs they’re ever going to have and they slowly go away over time,” Leonard said. “We can’t get an assessment for the quality of them. What we can get an assessment for is the quantity, and usually we think quality and quantity are related.”
If a woman’s egg count is low, freezing is an option. The process preserves the egg in its current state. It was only two years ago the American Society of Reproductive Medicine lifted the “experimental” label on egg freezing.
“When it was removed from the experimental list it became open to a lot more people,” Leonard said.
That led to a recent surge in demand for women choosing to do it for social reasons, even though the costs haven’t come down. A typical egg freezing procedure is between $8,000 and $10,000, plus a $500 yearly storage fee. Insurance doesn’t cover it.
Even with the price tag, Leonard expects the popularity will only rise in women who see it as an insurance policy for their fertility.
“I think this is going to become more common,” she said. “If you look at the cost of fertility treatments when you’re 40 years of age or older, they’re much more than freezing eggs at say 30 years of age if you’re able to get a pregnancy from those eggs.”
Stringer decided to take her own advice and seize her fertility future. She just received the results of her ultrasound.
“In one ovary, I have the egg count of a 25-year-old and in another I have the egg count of a 27-year-old,” said Stringer. “The person that did the ultrasound said, ‘Gosh, you’re really blessed.'”
Knowing her “ovary age” may not get her closer to finding love, but she at least has one less distraction in the way for now.
“I don’t have the pressure of spending the huge amount of investment of $10,000 to freeze my eggs today,” she said. “So it’s given me the gift of time, which I think is a great gift.”
Even with these resources, doctors say women should not ignore their biological clocks indefinitely. Fertility declines significantly after the age of 35.
Leonard suggests you should consider egg count tests and freezing if you’re not pursing a pregnancy by 34 or 35.
There is no expiration date on frozen eggs. Depending the case, doctors say women can carry an embryo to full term as old as 50 to 55 years old.