Don’t depend on those frozen eggs

Reactions to the news have varied from accolades for making the expensive procedure available, to the cynical accusation that corporate America is avoiding creating family-friendly work environments under the guise of reproductive empowerment. Yet amid all the debate over egg freezing’s role in women’s careers, there has been less talk about the still serious limitations of the medical procedure.

The first generation of women who froze their eggs were hit over the head with warnings not to wait too long to start their families and to think of their frozen fertility as a backup. Such cautions are drowned out by the current enthusiasm — epitomized by information sessions rebranded as “egg freezing parties” and held at swanky hotels. We are forgetting an essential fact: Egg freezing isn’t going to work for all women. Success varies according to the expertise of doctors and the quality of eggs, but even the best fertility centers report that a woman’s chance of pregnancy per embryo transferred to the uterus is between 30 and 50 percent. The overall chance of success rises if a woman freezes enough eggs for numerous attempts.

It makes sense for a newly divorced 39-year-old to take that risk. But what about the 32-year-old who’s encouraged to freeze by her new job perk? Will she make different decisions about work and motherhood that she might later regret?