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Egg Freezing & Gender Equality: Two Experts Weigh In

Kathrin “Kati” Deutschle had no idea that freezing her eggs would lead her to become a fertility-focused entrepreneur and patient advocate who is representative of promoting

gender equality in the workplace.

Five years ago, Kati Deutschle knew she wanted to become a parent someday, but she wasn’t ready. Working with Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron at Fertility Centers of Illinois, she underwent three cycles and froze 25 eggs. During the process, she was surprised by the need for more education and support, not to mention the cost. This inspired Kati to create emBorrow, a woman-led technology company focused on providing those seeking fertility services with a community of financial, emotional and educational support. She is currently pursuing her dream of motherhood and recently finished her seventh round of IVF.

In honor of Gender Equality Month in March, Kati and Dr. Jenny advocate that egg freezing offers women an option to focus on career goals and pursue motherhood when ready.

According to LeanIn.org, the nonprofit organization founded by Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions, 1 in 4 women thinks their gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead.

Dr. Hirshfeld is the director of the center for fertility preservation at Fertility Centers of Illinois, and an advocate for gender equality as well as the emotional and physical health of her patients. She speaks regularly to groups of women about fertility preservation and has led medical studies on the power of yoga and group discussion with other infertility patients to drop stress levels by 20%. She also encourages anyone to join the free events, classes, support groups and webinars offered by Fertility Centers of Illinois.

We sat down with Kati and Dr. Hirshfeld to discuss this important topic:

Q: How does egg freezing play a role in gender equality?

JHC: Egg freezing provides a mechanism for women to extend their fertility window. True equality and equity are achieved when the working environment supports truly comprehensive reproductive care. This includes covering egg freezing should women want to delay having a child, an environment that doesn’t penalize women that choose to have a family “during” career, and offering reasonable maternity leave policies.

KD: More and more women are dedicating themselves to their own careers or other personal aspirations; and motherhood, if it’s desired, ends up happening at a later time in life. The “biological clock”, however, does not accompany these social changes. Through fertility preservation, the biological clock ticks “slower” and allows the woman to be her own egg donor in the future if needed. This gives women the ability to pursue their aspirations with more peace of mind in terms of their fertility wellness.

Q: What should women know about considering egg freezing?

JHC: Egg freezing is most effective the younger we are when it is done. Egg quality diminishes with time and there are currently no treatments available to prevent this decline. Testing exists for women to learn their likely egg yield and information regarding “goal numbers” to have frozen based on age and family size. If women are concerned or curious, testing and talking with a doctor is the best first step.

KD: If you’re considering freezing your eggs, don’t wait. Have a “fertility awareness” test done, which involves both blood work and an ultrasound. This will allow you to have a better understanding of your ovarian reserve, or how many eggs you have left. Even if you are a healthy 30-year-old, that doesn’t mean you have all the time left in the world in terms of potentially being able to have children several years from now. Take advantage of the testing that is available to have a better understanding of your fertility health. Knowledge is power. 

Women should also know that egg freezing is not a guarantee that a healthy baby will be born from the eggs they freeze. Depending on your age and test results, your physician will recommend how many eggs should be frozen to give you the best chance to have a healthy baby from those eggs. Remember that nothing in life is guaranteed, but freezing your eggs will give you a better chance of having a healthy baby in the future if you are not currently ready to start your family. 

Q: What is the most common question about egg freezing that you hear?

JHC: Can I wait to do it? The unfortunate answer is no. What is most upsetting to me is someone who waits a few years and at that point, the ovarian reserve has diminished. The goal is to freeze eggs during peak fertility, which is the late 20s. Many women are not ready at that time but biologically, this timeframe is optimal. When women pursue egg freezing at a later age, more cycles are required to accumulate recommended egg numbers. Egg freezing is by no means right for everyone, but if it isn’t right now, it will not get better with time.

KD: How much does it cost? When women learn about the option to freeze their eggs now to potentially use in the future when they are ready to have children, they want to freeze their eggs yesterday. The main concern, however, is always cost. 

Q: How many eggs should women aim to freeze?

JHC: This will depend on a woman’s age as this will impact the health of the eggs retrieved. For women less than 35, it is reasonable to set a goal of 12-15 eggs. Women age 40 will likely need to retrieve 50 eggs to increase the chances of success.

Q: How can women freeze their eggs while balancing finances?

KD: Given that the most common questions about egg freezing relate to cost, women should know that they have options. It’s understandable that women may not be able to afford the hefty price tag that comes with freezing, which includes the procedure itself and medications, but most women can afford reasonable monthly payments. This is one of the many things that emBorrow facilitates women to do. Women can get a competitive interest rate and choose the financing term that is best for them, anywhere from 12-60 months. This allows women to have equal monthly payments so that they can work that payment into their already existing budget.  emBorrow also does not charge any application fees or pre-payment penalties. 

Q: Anything else you'd like people to know?

JHC: Gender equality includes women voicing their concerns to their employers. I have had patients that have convinced their employer to cover egg freezing. If we don’t say anything,  things will never change!

KD: Egg freezing can sound like a scary and emotional process to some but know that you are not alone. There is a community of women here to help you through it. The emBorrow team provides its members with the support, education, and coaching they need when undergoing fertility treatments, including egg freezing. We have been through the treatments ourselves and share your aspirations – we can walk you through the process step-by-step giving you guidance from the initial testing and monitoring through the egg retrieval procedure. We stand by you through your journey

To learn more about freezing your eggs or to book a $90 Fertility Awareness Checkup, call 877.324.4483.