As women continue to delay childbearing, to pursue their careers, they find themselves facing a tradeoff whereby their aging results in fertility challenges. This is especially true for women of color who are faced with infertility twice as often as white women. As such, should we be considering options that preserve our reproductive potential, such as egg freezing? When we came to understand that former FLOTUS Michelle Obama had to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive Sasha and Malia after a miscarriage in her memoir Becoming, we come to understand that even some of our most admired and celebrated figures have trouble child-birthing, and have taken precautions to expand their options.
This is not something we should devoid or deal with alone. The alarming rates of infertility and miscarriages that are occurring among women of color in their mid to late 30s is a matter that career-minded women need to be fully aware of and prepare options to address. So, can freezing your eggs extend your biological clock?
Let’s get into some of the particulars to be mindful of in considering freezing those precious eggs of yours…
Human oocyte cryopreservation or egg-freezing is the process of preserving a woman’s eggs by extracting, freezing, and storing for later use . It is one among several options including adoption and surrogacy that women may consider viable and available with a bit of planning. Whether driven by medical, interpersonal, or professional considerations, women have options to delay their reproduction to focus more on their professional career or to find a committed partner to have kids with, and not feel pressure to have kids within a certain timeframe. As well, such options give women a better chance of successful future pregnancy at an age where normal pregnancy poses a higher risk. Through science and technology, egg-freezing gives us the “maternal empowerment” that once was challenged by time and nature.
Do it as soon as you can. The earlier, the better. As we continue to focus more on our careers and become the badass women we are destined to be, having babies tend to get put on the backburner, but we don’t want to wait too long. Freezing your eggs before your late 30s gives you a higher chance of a healthy pregnancy and gives you that sense of peace while you focus on other priorities. Black women wait longer than any other race to receive fertility treatment or medical help to get pregnant which plays a big factor in facing issues of infertility.
Be mindful of the cost. Unless you work for a big tech company such as Facebook or Google, most health insurance doesn’t cover freezing your eggs. According to Parents.com writer, Kim Conte, “Out-of-pocket expenses run around $7,500 to $12,500 for every egg-freezing cycle, between $2,800 and $5,000 for medication, and up to $800 per year to store the eggs. Sometimes, depending on a woman’s age and the quality of her eggs, multiple rounds may be needed to harvest the recommended 10 to 30 eggs.”. Egg-freezing comes at a hefty cost and with the related and associated expenses, it makes it difficult to consider and may be cost prohibitive for most black women to consider as a ready option.
“I think this is great for medicine and science and for women to be more in control and not feel pressure to have children at a certain age. I’m focusing on my getting my law degree and building a career for myself that having a child is not in the picture for me right now. But then again, freezing eggs is expensive and I’m not sure if it’s worth the price tag of building a family. I really don’t hear a lot of black women consider this option considering the fact that gradually more and more black women are not having children at a young age.” – Rana R., 29, J.D. Candidate
Don’t let it be your only choice. You still have multiple opportunities to have many children at your age. There are many women who have natural, healthy babies in their 30s and 40s. Freezing eggs doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll get pregnant so it should be plan B, not plan A. It is still a new medical procedure that was invented back in the 1980s, and complications during pregnancy increase as you get older. There are still risks with the procedure and other health issues associated with it. Remember, the younger you are, the higher the chance of a successful pregnancy. The chances of a successful pregnancy after implantation are roughly 30 to 60 percent, depending on your age at the time the eggs were harvested and frozen. [3
There are other options to building a new family such as adoption or gestational surrogacy, whereby an embryo is created via in vitro fertilization (IVF), using your eggs and sperm of your significant other, and is then implanted into the pre-selected surrogate’s womb to be carried to term.
Delaying your pregnancy or not having (or wanting) children doesn’t make you less of a woman. Although freezing your eggs does help with women wishing to delay reproduction and gives women more power and freedom to have children when they wish, why does society, women, or ourselves continue to be pressured on the issue of childbearing? Seems more than anything that having children is a requirement rather than a choice otherwise our “femininity card” is revoked.
Unfortunately, 48 million women around the world suffer from infertility  and there’s a social stigma that if women can’t conceive, women fail as being just women. What’s even more important, when it comes to black women health issues with infertility, we normally silence ourselves and deal with the problems alone. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty; motherhood or not, it should be on our own terms. Impactful discussions about having children, whether not wanting or can’t have, should be shared candidly in our community in particular among black women.
“When I got married, I was 38 yrs old. My husband was previously married and had three kids. I kept feeling like it was my duty as a married woman to reproduce, follow in the footsteps of womanhood. Make my mom a grandma. But I’m not a follower and I did not want to be on a walker when my child graduated LOL. Being older, I wanted to experience my husband, us as a couple, and me as a working wife. My husband and I talked about it and said it would be my decision. I in-turn developed a relationship with my three bonus kids. Our relationship is good and I have two bonus grandbabies who look forward to seeing me.” – Cosetta J., 58, Medicine
Featured photo: J.K. Califf, via Flickr Creative Commons