'Social egg freezing' trend emerges among women in their 20s

For one, it's an insurance policy while she pursues her career. For another, it's about protecting the health of her future children. Two women share their different motivations for choosing to freeze their eggs sooner rather than later.
(Extend Fertility)

Julia Gervasio's life hasn't gone quite as she imagined.

"Eighteen-year-old me probably thought they would be in the pinnacle of their career," she said, "I thought I'd be a doctor — a phenomenal doctor — by now, probably have a partner somewhere along the way that just supports me endlessly, and maybe some kids would come along."

In reality, at 28, Gervasio is currently working toward her Masters and PhD degrees, and a recent long term relationship has ended. 
Julia Gervasio (Courtesy of Julia Gervasio)

She also has no kids. So she's decided to freeze her eggs.

When you imagine a woman who makes that choice, you might picture someone in her 30s, as we know fertility declines with age.

But Gervasio is part of a growing number of women doing it in their 20s. It's a trend that's been dubbed "social egg freezing". And its rise has prompted the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada to put out new guidelines for clinics on counselling women who want to freeze their eggs... with the sole intention of delaying pregnancy.

Gervasio said having her eggs frozen gives her the option to pursue academia to whatever level she chooses without the lingering feeling of a ticking biological clock.

"When things don't always go as planned, whether it be personally or professionally, oftentimes I think we feel there are so many things up in the air. And we're just waiting for them to come down and waiting to be given whatever falls on our plate. I think this is one aspect of my life that I can control."

Gervasio sees freezing her eggs as an insurance plan.

"You are protecting your option to have a child, to not have a child, to have a child later in life, to have a child once you are socially ready, not just biologically," she said. 

Taking the pressure off

As part of the "social egg freezing" trend, boutique-style clinics have popped up, catering to young women. Extend Fertility was the first of this kind in the United States.

The clinic host sessions like "Fertility 101," and posts videos online that explain egg freezing in a way that's tailored to a younger demographic

Jenne Chan is one of the women who has used this clinic. She's 28-years-old and had been feeling pressure to "settle down" with her long-term boyfriend.

"My parents and my grandparents just kept on urging me to get married and have children," said Chan "And I still felt like a kid myself, so I wasn't ready."

Chan had her eggs frozen six months ago. She told her mother beforehand and her father afterwards.

"My mom was like, 'Yes, that is the best thing you've ever told me in the past five years. In that case take as long as you want,'" said Chan "All that burden, yes, gone. Poof, just like that."

Chan said by freezing her eggs earlier, she is protecting the health of her future children.

"Since I'm going to have kids at some point … I'd like to know that they're getting the healthiest, youngest eggs possible."

Chan said she is also protecting her basic freedom of choice, as well as the basic right of her own fertility.

The subject of freezing eggs and fertility is still taboo, Chan finds. She speaks about it openly with her friends. Some of them are very shocked to hear anyone talk about it.

"They may be too traditional or conservative," said Chan. "It's okay. Just talk about it. And once people are more educated about it, it's just like any other elective procedure."

This story appears in the Out in the Open episode "Protection."