I was dismayed to read the Dating Forum letter from a single woman who felt she had been misled about the egg-freezing procedure. She raised three separate points: First, that despite what she had been told (by whom, she doesn’t specify) that the procedure was “easy” and “no big deal,” she, in fact, experienced bleeding and pain. Second, she heard that some married women were not successful in using their frozen eggs to become pregnant. And third, that, though she had been promised that undergoing this procedure would help her find a shidduch, when she told the men she was dating that she had frozen her eggs, they found it a turn-off. She ends by stating that she is angry at being sold this “gimmick.”
We at PUAH have long been advocates of oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, as a means for single women who have reached a certain age to preserve their future ability to have children. While Ms. Sebrow correctly notes that recent studies have questioned the classic medical assumption that women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have, what is still an indisputable medical fact is that once women reach a certain age, the quality of their eggs declines precipitously.
At PUAH, we are constantly involved in helping women who are having difficulty becoming pregnant, for one reason or another. The emotional and physical suffering they endure from their infertility is indescribable. For women in their mid- to upper-thirties who are still single, the hard truth is that they are facing a statistical likelihood that, when they do eventually marry, they will suffer from infertility, by virtue of their age alone.
Therefore, from our vantage point, when a procedure shows highly encouraging success rates in helping women have a baby at an age where it is difficult to naturally conceive, we want to do everything in our power to inform women of this option and prevent future fertility anguish. Is the procedure “no big deal?” Of course not; any surgically invasive procedure carries risks, and we sincerely hope that the letter writer wasn’t misled by her doctor on this point (what her friends might have told her about their own personal experiences was just that; people react differently to medical procedures). However, it is considered a medically safe and relatively easy procedure — and the potential payoff, the chance to give birth to a healthy baby, is certainly worth it.
Are the frozen eggs guaranteed to lead to a live birth? Of course not; only a quack would give you a 100% guarantee of anything. But oocyte cryopreservation has a good statistical rate of success. I have personally met numerous babies born from frozen eggs. A competent medical professional, such as the highly-regarded ones to whom PUAH refers women, will discuss both the risks and chances of success with a patient, based on her individual circumstances, and help the woman come to her own informed decision about whether to go through with the procedure.
Finally, as to the letter writer’s third point, we strongly agree with Ms. Sebrow’s comment that the man who is not serious about marriage is the same one who will be turned off by egg freezing. But, beyond that, we believe that the reason a single woman should freeze her eggs when she is still young enough to do so is not to make herself more marketable in shidduchim, but to give herself the gift of hope and the knowledge that she has done her utmost hishtadlus to have a family in the future.
A woman who does not feel the relentless pressure of her ticking biological clock will be a calmer, more confident, and ultimately more successful dater. I have heard the horror stories of women jumping into relationships with “the wrong guy” simply because of the pressure they felt from that biological clock. They felt that this man was their only chance to have a family. For many women, the satisfaction and reassurance of freezing eggs will allow them to take that well-overdue deep breath.
We welcome women to contact us with any questions or concerns they have about the procedure, and we pray that everyone should find their zivug hagun quickly and easily.
Rabbi Elan Segelman
PUAH Rabbinic Adviser