Every year more Canadian women are delaying having kids. In 2016, more babies were born to Canadian women over 35 than to women in their early 20s, according to Statistics Canada.
However, starting a family later in life comes with the risk of increased infertility, which is one reason there’s been a huge in the number of women freezing their eggs.
The Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM), with a clinic in Vancouver and Edmonton, reported a 180 per cent increase from 2017 to 2018 in the number of women freezing their eggs. The clinic also reported a 150 per cent increase in the last half of 2018 over the first half.
PCRM does about 50 to 100 elective egg freeze cases per year.
“These are women who may have been pursuing education, or their job or travel or personal pursuits. And then they find themselves in their 30s without a partner or without the immediate prospect of having a baby,” Dr. Caitlin Dunne, with PCRM, said. "The large majority are professional women who just haven’t met the right person yet.”
In 2013, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine decided the procedure should no longer be considered “experimental.” Since then, egg freezing for social reasons has steadily become more popular.
Since 2009, PCRM has been freezing the eggs of women for medical reasons, to preserve the fertility of women undergoing cancer treatment, for example.
“It’s something that we’ve been doing for a long time but now it’s become more mainstream,”
At PCRM, the procedure costs $7,000 plus the cost of drugs, which can range from $3,000 to $5,000. The entire procedure, including hormone injections, takes about three weeks.
Physiologically, the best time for a woman to freeze her eggs is under the age of 34, Dunne said.
“Realistically, women who are 34 aren’t ready to take that step yet or are maybe waiting to meet the right person. There has been some research into when the most cost-effective time to freeze your eggs is and that number is probably 37,” Dunne said. “So somewhere between 34 and 37 is the optimal time when balancing the physiology and the egg quality against the cost and the idea that you might meet somebody and never need those eggs.”
Megan Beaton, 28, froze her eggs two years ago. When she was 19 years old she had an ovarian cyst removed. She also has endometriosis.
“Ideally in the future I will be able to have my own kids the natural way but in case I get another cyst on my remaining ovary or in case the endometriosis causes fertility issues for me, which it can, then I kind of have this backup plan,” Beaton said from her home in Vancouver.
She spent $1,250 on the procedure and said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from her mom.
Women can keep their eggs frozen for as long as they want but guidelines recommend using them before they turn 50.