The Rise of Egg Freezing, and the Privileges Required to Access It

How Egg Freezing Went From a Fertility Procedure to a Lifestyle Privilege

The business of egg extraction is thriving, among the privileged group of people who can access it. Across Spring Fertility's clinics nationwide, the number of egg freezing cycles undertaken last year jumped 37 percent from the year before. That surge is visible at fertility clinics around the country, according to data from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. The prototypical patient also seems to be getting younger, doctors say, a change coinciding with a steady uptick in corporate benefit packages that cover fertility preservation. In 2015 just 5 percent of large employers covered egg freezing; in 2023, nearly one in five did.

The Fertility Perk Wars

During the tight labor market of 2022, the media company Forbes found itself, like most media and tech companies, in a war for top talent. Brooke Dunmore, vice president of corporate benefits at the company, was working remotely from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, trying to figure out how to keep employees and entice new ones. Just before the pandemic, Forbes had begun promising up to $25,000 for infertility treatment (freezing embryos and then implanting them in the uterus) and fertility preservation (freezing eggs). Fertility benefits can be relatively affordable for companies, compared with other corporate perks, because there is a limited number of employees who are of reproductive age and will use them, according to Segal, a benefits consultancy. Large companies tend to be self-insured and pay for the cost of each employee's treatment through the health plan, while smaller ones are fully insured and pay a fixed fee to cover the cost of treatment for all employees to the insurer. Companies justify the cost as something that improves diversity and female workers' productivity.

A Magical Fix for a Terrible Time

After years of absorbing the reasons my generation dreads motherhood — the costs, the bodily toll, the disappearance of friendships, the looming climate and social disasters — freezing my eggs felt like a gift of ridiculously unmitigated optimism. It was a way to invest in the possibility, however far-off, of becoming a mom, not as a negation of all the cultural doom and gloom surrounding it, but as an antidote. But as I spoke with more friends and experts, I wondered whether the hype over egg freezing, in a backhand way, affirmed the seeming impossibility of balancing parenthood and work.

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