When you freeze your eggs, you won’t know until you try to thaw them years later whether they will help you conceive a baby. In the meantime, you can’t help but wonder how it will influence other areas of your life.
As soon as women who freeze their eggs get the confirmation that they’re safely stashed away, most report an instant psychological boost. There’s nothing quite like emerging from the anesthesia and feeling sheer relief that the aging of your eggs has been stopped cold. But what everyone really wants to know: Will egg freezing make it easier to date?
The good news is that promising research from New York University’s Langone Medical Center found that there is such a thing as a positive “egg freezing effect.” Of 224 women who went through the procedure between 2012 and 2016, more than 60 percent said it lessened “biological-clock pressure” when dating. One-fourth said that freezing their eggs helped them feel more relaxed, focused, and less desperate, with more time to find the right partner.
One woman told me that she simply felt “normal again.” Nearly overnight, she had escaped our culture’s loathsome stereotype of “clock ticker” women, who supposedly at age 34 start grilling their dates within seconds of meeting about whether they want kids.
Actually, most of the women I know go out of their way not to reveal their fertility time crunch to dates. (“Not attractive!” say dating columnists.) Still, the pressure can be unbearable. You used to feel as if you had years to find the right parenting partner, and now you’re down to months. You do “fertility math” – you know, those often unhelpful calculations about the intersection of your romantic and reproductive lives.
You do ‘fertility math’ – you know, those often unhelpful calculations about the intersection of your romantic and reproductive lives.
“If we start dating now and get engaged in a year, then we can start trying,” you think. “What if I’m pregnant at my wedding? Could I still do the Champagne toast?” This is what you wonder about at 2 a.m. while you check your phone to see if Thursday’s date texted back. It’s not exactly a great mindset for romance.
So how does the egg freezing effect work? I’ve observed that it comes in stages: First comes a delicious “I don’t care” liberation. A year before, you wouldn’t have considered Thursday’s date in the first place. But you gave into the panicked chatter in your head of “you never know” (when you actually did).
Then comes the “I really need to focus on dating” stage. Many psychologists have observed that egg freezing has a clarifying effect on women’s life priorities. While some women who freeze their eggs have known all along that they want to be mothers – but just hadn’t found the right partner or were reeling from a breakup with someone they thought was the right partner – a surprising number go through egg freezing because they have been ambivalent about having children. (The NYU Langone survey found that 20 percent of the women who froze their eggs were unsure if they definitely wanted children in the future.) However, they didn’t want to lose the option. Yet often after going through the act of freezing, including all those doctor’s visits, blood draws, vaginal ultrasounds, hormone injections and credit card payments, they realize that ultimately their effort means they really do want to become moms someday.
Dating after egg freezing should operate as it does anytime women feel good about themselves and their futures. I’ve met many women who found partners within months of freezing, had drama-free courtships, and got married and pregnant the natural way. I’ve also met women who are still dating years after they froze their eggs. They know they have options, whether that’s continuing to look for the right partner or deciding to use a sperm donor. They still feel time pressure, but nothing like the hideous pressure cooker they experienced pre-freezing.
What’s less clear is how egg freezing helps women who are already in a relationship when they decide to freeze. One-quarter of women in the NYU Langone survey were involved with someone when they froze their eggs, and half of those women had been in their relationship less than a year. The impact depends on why women decided to freeze their eggs in the first place: Did they pursue freezing because the relationship was too new? Because they were with someone for a time but uncertain about the future of the relationship? Or were they married but not ready to start their families? These are possibilities, but the question has not yet been studied.
And what do men think when women freeze their eggs? They love it. More than 60 percent of women in the NYU Langone study disclosed their frozen fertility with their dates and were met with “positive and supportive reception.”
Of course – it takes the pressure off of them. They also don’t want to feel that they’re wasting your time if they’re on the fence about a third date. It certainly is attractive when a woman sitting across from them nonchalantly caressing her red blend proudly tells them how she took charge of her fertility because it’s important to her and her future family. That said, it doesn’t matter if he’s impressed because Friday night’s date probably will be.
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It, a narrative non-fiction book that chronicles the lives of four women who attempt to preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs. She has written about health and medicine and social issues for more than two dozen media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Financial Times and Slate.
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