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egg freezing Archives - Blog - Empowered IVF

Facebook, Apple & Egg Freezing: Self-serving Corporate Strategy or Supportive Gesture Toward Women?

Lab technicianThe recent announcements by Facebook and Apple that they would be offering their female employees financial support for egg freezing by way of a health benefit set off an odd response, in my opinion. Many people reacted with outrage and cynicism; it must be a self-serving corporate strategy designed to keep women focused on the demands of the workplace so they would not be distracted by the responsibilities of motherhood, they said.

I did not share that reaction, which felt to me like a “rush to judgment”. Before drawing any conclusion, I believe the public must view this new employee benefit through a wider lens, in the context of all of the benefits Facebook and Apple offer to their employees, with a particular focus on benefits that relate to reproduction, maternity, paternity, adoption and childcare. How could anyone reasonably conclude that these corporations have engaged in an evil conspiracy against women in the workplace, without first asking if they have a history of demonstrating, through their employee benefit policies, that they are supportive of their employees’ efforts to balance the demands of the workplace with the demands of family building? Before we react with outrage, don’t we have an obligation to determine whether, in addition to offering this new egg freezing benefit, they also offer benefits that provide financial assistance to employees who want children immediately or already have them? For example, do they provide health benefit plans that cover the significant cost of in-vitro fertilization for employees who are struggling with infertility or who are gay and require assisted reproduction to have children who are genetically related to them? Will their health benefit plans cover the cost of IVF for employees who have frozen their eggs with the company’s financial support? (I certainly hope so, since a woman’s frozen eggs will be of no use to her if the IVF procedure, which is required to use them, is beyond her financial reach.) Do Facebook and Apple provide drug plans that cover the cost of the expensive fertility drugs, which are required for IVF? Do they have policies in place to help employees with the cost of adopting? Do they offer paid maternity and parental leave to their employees upon the birth or adoption of a baby, more generous than the leaves they are required to provide by law? What kind of benefits do they offer to women who experience pre-birth complications? Do they offer an on-site childcare option?

I believe it is only once these questions are asked and answered that we can properly evaluate the motivation behind Facebook’s and Apple’s recent gestures relating to egg freezing. If we learn that their health benefits reflect a corporate culture that embraces family, I don’t see how anyone can justify the cynical reaction that exploded in the media and on the Internet. I, for one, will choose to view this new benefit as a supportive gesture toward women and an effort on the part of Facebook and Apple to ensure that their health benefits are in step with the rapidly developing world of reproductive technology in which the experimental label was only recently removed from egg freezing.

The AMH Test: A Simple Blood Test Can Help Women Understand If They Should Feel a Sense of Urgency About Becoming Pregnant Sooner Rather Than Later

Frozen EggsA simple blood test called the Anti-mullerian Hormone (AMH) Test can help women who want children understand if they should feel a sense of urgency about becoming pregnant sooner rather than later. Although the AMH Test is not invasive or expensive, it is rarely suggested by family doctors and OB/GYNs when women turn to them for counselling regarding their plans for reproduction. Most women first learn about the AMH Test only after they have experienced difficulty becoming pregnant and are a patient within a fertility clinic. A greater awareness among women of the utility of this test can help protect them from the heartache of infertility.

The AMH Test, which can be taken on any day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, provides information about the status of a woman’s ovarian reserve. A woman’s “ovarian reserve” refers to the quantity of eggs remaining in her ovaries. The diminishment of a woman’s ovarian reserve is an inescapable fact of reproductive biology. Women are born with a finite number of eggs in their ovaries and this number declines as they age, with a slight dip at age thirty, a significant decline at age thirty-five, and an accelerated attrition at age thirty-eight. When a woman’s ovarian reserve is diminished, many of the eggs that remain available in her ovaries are genetically abnormal and incapable of resulting in the birth of a healthy baby. Women with diminished ovarian reserve often struggle to become pregnant.

While diminished ovarian reserve is rare in young women, it does occur in some young women. The average age of menopause is 51.7, however ten percent (10%) of women reach menopause by age 45 and their ovarian reserve can be diminished approximately thirteen years prior, by age thirty-two (32). The beauty of the AMH Test is that it gives women insight into the status of their personal ovarian reserve based on the quantity of eggs in their own ovaries, rather than based on general guidelines focused on age. The AMH Test indicates whether a young woman’s ovarian reserve is as one would expect it to be at her age. If it is, she may have time to spare before attempting to become pregnant, and can test her AMH level over time to get a good sense of the rate at which her ovarian reserve is declining. However, if a young woman discovers that her AMH level is low for her age, she will be advised that she is likely to enter menopause early, that it would be wise not to postpone attempting to become pregnant, and that she might want to consider attempting to achieve pregnancy as aggressively as possible via in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

If attempting pregnancy is not an immediate option, the AMH Test can also help young women make decisions relating to fertility preservation. If a woman is in a committed relationship with a man and they have decided they would like to have children together but do not yet feel ready, and the woman’s AMH level is low for her age, this can alert the couple to consider freezing embryos now for future use. If a woman does not have a partner with whom she wishes to have a child, and her AMH level is low for her age, this can alert her to consider freezing her eggs now for future use.

Although it is a relatively new test, the AMH Test is now considered the most precise, informative and reliable method of assessing a woman’s ovarian reserve. Many clinics use this test exclusively to evaluate a woman’s ovarian reserve, however some fertility specialists use the AMH Test in combination with other tests, including a transvaginal ultrasound to count the number of antral follicles, the testing of other hormone levels such as the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level and the estradiol (estrogen) level on day 3 of the woman’s menstrual cycle, and the clomiphene citrate challenge test (CCCT).

If you are a woman in your early thirties or older who wants to have children but is considering delaying pregnancy, I urge you to make an appointment with a board certified reproductive endocrinologist without delay to request an AMH Test. The result of this simple blood test can inform your decision-making process and potentially protect you from the heartache that I witness daily in my efforts to help women overcome infertility.

Response to Emma Rosenblum’s Businessweek Article: “Later, Baby: Will Freezing Your Eggs Free Your Career?”

Frozen EggsBy now you may have read Emma Rosenblum’s cover story in Bloomberg’s Businessweek called, “Later, Baby: Will Freezing Your Eggs Free Your Career?” Despite its sensational but admittedly eye-catching title, Rosenblum’s article was excellent. However, I would like to emphasize three important points that were not mentioned:

1. Women who decide to freeze their eggs should be careful when choosing a fertility clinic in which to do so. Marketing efforts around egg freezing can be quite aggressive, especially in large urban centers where it is most common. Surprisingly, some fertility clinics are still using the “slow freeze” method of freezing eggs. And even in clinics that are using advanced vitrification techniques, many cannot point to a statistically significant track record of successfully thawing frozen eggs, creating embryos with them, and then conducting transfers that have resulted in the birth of a baby. Women considering freezing their eggs ought to think of themselves as “consumers” who have a right to ask physicians penetrating questions and who are entitled to receive meaningful answers. Read More

Empowered IVF™’s Rhonda Levy Featured Blogger at Fertility Authority

We are pleased to announce Rhonda Levy is a featured blogger at Fertility Authority. Her blog, Own the Process with Empowered IVF™, is now live and the first post “5 Vitally Important Things to Know About Using a U.S. Surrogate” is available here.

Have You Thought About Freezing Your Eggs?

Frozen EggsRecently, I had lunch with a young female lawyer and we began to talk about her strong desire to have a child. In her mid-thirties and not in a relationship, she expressed fear that she might not meet a partner until it was too late. It did not take long for me to realize that the thought of freezing her eggs had not crossed my lunch companion’s mind. It occurred to me that if a woman like her (living in a major metropolitan city, professional, unmarried, in her mid-thirties, and certain that she wanted children), wasn’t thinking about taking steps to preserve her fertility, egg freezing still does not have the full attention of women who might want to consider it. Read More

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