The Washington Post writes of Brigitte Adams, a vocal Feminist activist who encouraged women to putt off raising a family and focus on their careers instead. Several years later, Brigitte has found herself a victim of advice she gave years ago.
Brigitte Adams caused a sensation four years ago when she appeared on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek under the headline, “Freeze your eggs, Free your career.” She was single and blond, a Vassar graduate who spoke fluent Italian, and was working in tech marketing for a number of prestigious companies. Her story was one of empowerment, how a new fertility procedure was giving women more choices, as the magazine noted provocatively, “in the quest to have it all.”
Adams remembers feeling a wonderful sense of freedom after she froze her eggs in her late 30s, despite the $19,000 cost. Her plan was to work a few more years, find a great guy to marry and still have a house full of her own children.
Things didn’t turn out the way she hoped.
In early 2017, with her 45th birthday looming and no sign of Mr. Right, she decided to start a family on her own. She excitedly unfroze the 11 eggs she had stored and selected a sperm donor.
That’s when the problems started. As Brigitte would soon find out, egg freezing can be a rather delicate procedure, where so many things can go wrong:
Two eggs failed to survive the thawing process. Three more failed to fertilize. That left six embryos, of which five appeared to be abnormal. The last one was implanted in her uterus. On the morning of March 7, she got the devastating news that it, too, had failed.
Adams was not pregnant, and her chances of carrying her genetic child had just dropped to near zero. She remembers screaming like “a wild animal,” throwing books, papers, her laptop — and collapsing to the ground.
“It was one of the worst days of my life. There were so many emotions. I was sad. I was angry. I was ashamed,” she said. “I questioned, ‘Why me?’ ‘What did I do wrong?’ ”
A fertility specialist gives his take:
James A. Grifo, a fertility specialist at NYU Langone Health who is one of the pioneers of the procedure, calls the whole notion of being able to “control” your fertility — perpetuated by the media and embraced by feminists — destructive.
“It’s total fiction. It’s incorrect,” Grifo said. “Your whole life it’s beaten into your head that you’re in control and if you can’t have a baby, you blame yourself. There has to be more dialogue about what women can be responsible for and what they are not responsible for.”
NYU Langone began offering elective egg freezing in 2004, one of the first programs in the nation. Since then, about 150 babies have been born using thawed eggs, Grifo said. That represents a 50 to 60 percent success rate — hardly a guarantee.
On average, a woman freezing 10 eggs at age 36 has a 30 to 60 percent chance of having a baby with them, according to published studies reviewed by The Washington Post. The odds are higher for younger women, but they drop precipitously for older women.
They also go up with the number of eggs stored (as does the cost). But the chance of success varies so wildly by individual that reproductive specialists say it’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome based on aggregate data.