‘Eggs in the bank’: how one clinic is making egg freezing less expensive


Extend Fertility cuts the $10,000 price tag in half to give women with demanding careers or chronic illnesses more accessible options in planning for their futures

Rhiannon Beauregard, 33, is visiting New York for a few days. But the sex and marriage therapist is not here for a vacation, to see the sights or visit friends in the city where she once went to college. She is here to freeze her eggs.

Beauregard lives in Austin, Texas where she runs her own practice, but has opted to come to New York to use the services offered by Extend Fertility. The clinic is the first of its kind focusing only on egg freezing and not offering any other fertility services and treatments such as in vitro fertilization. By doing that, the clinic has been able to cut costs of its services to $5,000 while offering personalized service to each one of its clients.

One of the barriers to egg freezing becoming mainstream is the cost. The procedure was still deemed to be experimental until just a few years ago and was mostly an accepted way to extend fertility for older women, cancer patients or those diagnosed with fertility disorders.

Since it is considered to be an elective procedure, egg freezing is typically not covered by health insurance. The average cost of the procedure is about $10,000 with an additional $2,000 to $5,000 for the necessary medication and another couple of thousand dollars for storage. If the frozen eggs are actually to be used for IVF later on, that would cost an additional $12,000.

Altogether, that adds up to more than $25,000 not exactly chump change. Aware of the costs, two years ago, Facebook and Apple announced that they would cover up to $20,000 in costs for any female employee that wanted to freeze their eggs.

While Extend Fertility is unable to cut the costs of medicine (the clients are required to pay for it on their own) or the future costs of IVF, its founders hope that by cutting the cost of the initial procedure in half they will make the procedure accessible for more women.

Its expensive either way. We know that, says Joshua Klein, co-founder and chief medical officer of Extend Fertility. He points out that $5,000 is still half as expensive as $10,000 and adds that the Extend is working with financing partners so that those interested could opt to pay $200 or $300 a month for a while instead of a one-time payment. We are trying to be innovative and thoughtful about that, he says.

Joshua Klein, co-founder and chief medical officer of Extend Fertility. Photograph: Extend Fertility

Should women view egg freezing as some kind of down payment on their future? Klein would prefer that they think of it an investment for both the future and the present. Many women worry about meeting the right guy because they hear that biological clock ticking loudly, he says. That ticking is a stress factor in their lives. By freezing their eggs and knowing that they have preserved their fertility, they can silence that ticking and receive the immediate benefit of peace of mind.

On 8 August, two days before the clinic officially opened, Beauregard was on the fourth day of her pill regiment.

Beauregard has to inject herself daily with some very expensive drugs. Prior to starting the regimen, she had to come off her birth control pills, which resulted in a couple of days of feeling weepy. She is bloated and on the mornings that she goes in for checkups at Extend, she ends up watching an ultrasound of her uterus staring at her eggs instead of a baby.

However, she says, the staff at Extend have been extremely supportive. Every client is assigned their own fertility specialist and is available to accompany them to all of their meetings. The Extend office, just a block or two south of Central Park, also does not resemble a typical fertility clinic. The walls are light blue. The rooms look more like small conference rooms with round tables and a handful of chairs. There are no big tables with stirrups, no posters with uteri or models of babies nestled in a uterus.

A meeting room at Extend Fertility. Photograph: Courtesy of Extend Fertility

Even the way this room is set up, we are trying to build into our experience the idea that this is not an illness thing, that we are not trying to cure a disease, says Klein, sitting in one of the meeting rooms. Here we dont want to make people feel that they have a problem. They are just a woman living in the 21st century, coming to the doctor about preserving options for the future. It shouldnt feel like a problem.

For some, it might be a combination of the two. A while back Beauregard was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) an disorder that affects hormone production and can affect womans fertility in women of reproductive age. She was 32 at that time and single.

I didnt really have any plans to go out and find me a partner to have a child with, she says. She began thinking about what would happen over the next 10 years. PCOS can lead to complications during pregnancy, increased chances of miscarriage, infertility and high levels of estrogen, which can cause cancer of the uterine lining.Beauregard realized that if she wants to have children in the future, she might have to undergo treatments such as IVF at that time. I started to think about what the difference would be between now and later and the biggest difference between now and later is that after 35 my eggs start to … age, I guess, for the lack of better term.

Klein agrees.

We know without a shadow of the doubt that when you freeze eggs when you are younger, you are going to be putting away something thats much, much, much more likely to be helpful for you than if you wait to do it as a reactionary measure when you are older, he says.

According to him, the profile of women interested in egg freezing is slowly shifting from panic-mode 40-year old to a proactive smart-thing-to-do-because-I am-a-young-aspiring-woman 30-year-old. Fertility company EggBanxx, which targets younger career-focused women with slogans like Lean in, but freeze first!, estimates that by 2018, 76,000 women will have frozen their eggs.

Beauregard says she would have eventually considered freezing her eggs even without the PCOS diagnosis.

Since I am single now I dont want to put that kind of pressure on a new relationship, she says. If I hadnt frozen my eggs, it would be one of the first things we talk about: Hey, how do you feel about kids? Because we have to start making decisions in the next four to five years. I feel like a lot of pressure has been lifted off of me.

The cost was the only thing that made Beauregard think twice. While researching her options, she often felt that this was a moneymaking scheme for doctors and clinics.

The $5,000 price tag at Extend seemed affordable in comparison. Despite that, the procedure and the drugs cost all her savings.

Most women in their mid-30s do not have a large savings to fall back on and because we do not have any other support like a partner. The big risk for me was less about the procedure and more about OK, I dont have any savings left, she says. Then laughing, she continues: There is a risk of walking out into the world with some eggs in the bank but no money.

I drained my savings to do this. Photograph: Royalty Free/Getty Images

Beauregard admits she underestimated the cost of the drugs, which she assumed would be a few hundred dollars. It turned out to be closer to a couple of thousand dollars, instead. Additionally, she has to pay for storing of her eggs. At Extend, storage for one year costs $450. For five years, its $2,000 and $3,500 for 10.

To Talia Zapolanski, freezing her eggs is akin to an insurance policy.

Zapolanski, who worked in finance for 11 years and now works for a real estate investment firm, had been thinking of doing this for about a year and had gone in for a consultation at another hospital before being referred to Extend by a friend of one of the clinics doctors.

I definitely know that I want children. Thats something I feel strongly about. I havent found the right person yet. I am not dating anyone now and I dont know when I will find the right person, says the 33-year-old New Yorker. You start hearing a lot more about egg freezing these days and I thought I would look into it. It seems like a good idea. Hopefully I will be able to, when the time comes, get pregnant and have kids the natural way but you never know.

Egg freezing should not be one of those things that we dont talk about, according to both Beauregard and Zapolanski.

When I was telling people that I was freezing my eggs, a lot of people didnt know what to say. It makes people uncomfortable eventually they will get curious about it, but a lot of people are a little dumbfounded that I am so open about it, said Beauregard. I want to make sure that people feel comfortable talking about these options.

Zapolanski says she has encouraged no less than five friends to go do the same.

Recently, when she was visiting Los Angeles, she shared with a friend from college that she recently froze her eggs.

She kind of paused and looked at me in shock that I had shared that and she said: I am glad you said that, I am about to go through the process and I am so nervous about and I have nobody to talk to, she said. Its a very taboo subject.

Read more: www.theguardian.com


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