Egg freezing had been used in this country as a "semi-standard of care" when a woman's medical condition would require treatment that could jeopardize her reproductive health, Rosen says. But even two or three years ago, offering the procedure purely to enhance a woman's reproductive potential worried him. "I didn't want to give an empty promise," he says. Plus, he feared it would lead women to prolong getting pregnant and waste fertile years. But the stream of women who sought the procedure disabused him from that notion. "I was constantly told by patients, 'Believe me, I want to get together. I want to be in a relationship ... If it's in front of me, I'm gonna get it.'"
In her research, Richards found that when a woman freezes her eggs, she becomes more committed to pursuing motherhood and more empowered on the path to get there. "You're more relaxed, but at the same time, you're more focused." Or, as she puts it: "You're not this sad 38-year-old whose options are dwindling" but someone who's "got it going on." With fertility fears out of the way, she says "you can talk about all the other stupid stuff you talk about on dates, flirt and drink martinis."
For her part, the experience left Richards feeling more calm and confident. "If I could figure out how to stop my eggs from aging, I could figure out Match.com," she says. These days, she's settled into a 10-month relationship with a divorced dad who wants to have more kids. And, of course, she has her younger eggs in the bank, ready when she is.
"My whole idea of this has changed tremendously," Rosen says. While most of the women who see him are pushing 40, "anyone is a candidate," he says. And the younger the patient, the better the outcome – although most 20-year-olds likely aren't worried yet about safeguarding their fertility, he notes. "If you're thinking about it, I think you should see somebody for a consultation," he says, explaining that women who ruminate about it for five years wish they had acted five years ago. A recent study by the Free University of Brussels in Europe found that among 86 women who had frozen their eggs, 96 percent said they would do it again, but 71 percent said they wish they'd done it sooner.
By 34, "if you know you're not going to have children within a few years, find the money and freeze," Richards says. "Let's say you have a baby in your late 30s, you may want those frozen eggs for a second baby." Although she bemoans the price tag for the procedure, she says that as you get older, "you're gonna have to pay money for fertility at some point, so you might as well do it now when you have a good chance of lowering birth defects."
"It feels like a shame, when women get together and they talk about it – the anxiety and the freak-out and the sadness of it. And I just want to say, 'Let's stop having those conversations. Let's stop letting the panic control our lives.'" She draws from her own experience, in lambasting the years wasted on this worry – "especially when now we have something we can do about it ... That's where you can really 'lean in,' you know?"