For a variety of reasons, single women in their 30s and early 40s are beginning to explore the option of egg freezing.
The reasons are often unrelated and come from very different aspects. Maybe Mr. Right hasn’t introduced himself yet. Maybe they’re concentrating on their careers. Or maybe they just don’t feel like they are in the right place in their lives to care for a baby.
Whatever it is, they pay a heavy price (both financial and emotional) for the process they must undertake to freeze their eggs until they are ready.
Take Yael for example. She is 35 and rents an apartment in central Israel with a friend. “As I approached my 35th birthday, I felt like it was now or never. The biological clock is ticking and friends and family keep asking when it will be time for me. My eggs are not getting any fresher. I didn’t have a partner and started thinking about the concept of single motherhood.
“That’s why it felt right to freeze the eggs. I can buy more time while I focus on financial stability and meeting the man I would like to father my children.
“But then came the question of price. I found that the procedure could cost up to 15,000 NIS in addition to the medication required. But I decided I wouldn’t let a price tag stand between me and the parents. I borrowed a little bit from my parents, used my life savings and embarked on the adventure that will hopefully end with a beautiful child of my own.”
About a decade ago, legislation was passed allowing any woman over the age of 30 to have her egg frozen, whether for medical or personal reasons. The caveat was funding. The woman must continue to bear 100% of the costs herself.
Recently, the Equal Opportunities Committee in the Knesset discussed the idea of having the state help with the costs, but nothing has been decided yet.
Loria Shmueli, Financial Services Manager at HMO Meuhedet, said: “The cost is exactly why we decided to subsidize the process and help all women who want to freeze their eggs. Money should never be the reason for donating to the dream of parenting.”
According to Shmueli, the number of women undergoing the procedure is multiplying every year. The average age of women seeking help is 35.6 years.
“Obviously, increased awareness will increase the number of women using this service,” she said. “I believe there is long-term social and economic importance in helping women who choose not to conceive at a younger age. Freezing eggs for a young woman means a higher chance of conception, which saves a lot of money on fertility treatments later.”
What does the procedure cost?
“The total cost is between 8,000 and 12,000 NIS,” she said. “We at Meuhedet subsidize about 60%, so we’re talking about 4,000 NIS for excess. We are the only HMO that contributes to the costs, also for non-medical reasons. We think it’s important to support every woman in a structured way from the planning phase to aftercare,” she said.
dr Benny Chen, gynecologist and women’s health manager at Meuhedet, said: “Women around the world are choosing to delay pregnancy until their late 30s or early 40s, but many are undergoing complicated fertility procedures such as artificial insemination at this point. Thankfully, awareness of fertility preservation is increasing,” he said.
“I meet many women who have put off their parenting plans for all sorts of reasons and are having trouble conceiving, so they make the decision to freeze their eggs. I encourage all women over 30 to ask their doctor about the procedure before it’s too late,” he said.
What happens to egg quality as the woman matures?
“Every woman is born with about half a million of them. Ovulation starts around 12 or 13, and she loses a few every month. Unlike sperm, which is constantly regenerating, women are born with a finite number of runs out. It’s not just the number, however. Their quality also deteriorates. Because of this, some children born to older women may have a higher rate of Down syndrome. So it’s important to do it sooner rather than later.”
Do obstetricians raise the issue of oocyte preservation with their patients?
“I recently issued new guidelines for all obstetricians at Meuhedet to address the issue in the same way they would for early cancer screening and Pap smears, and to refer them to a fertility doctor if necessary.”
What is the awareness of this in Israel?
“It’s quite high as the issue is paramount in this country, but we still have some way to go. It’s like telling a 20-year-old to start a retirement plan, and then at 55 he finds himself without one. Same with women and fertility. Telling them to think about it in their 20s often falls on deaf ears. However, in terms of the female body, this is the right time to think about it,” he said.