In the 1980s, the average American woman had her first child at age 23, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But times have changed, and education and career opportunities for women have improved.
Today, fewer women are having babies in their early 20s, and birth rates among women in their late 30s and early 40s are going up. In this fact sheet, we explore the demographics of women who decide to freeze their eggs and the most common reasons they choose to undergo egg freezing.
What is egg freezing and why do women do it?
Egg freezing is a procedure that involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries, freezing them, and storing them. They can later be used for in vitro fertilization (IVF), although most women who freeze their eggs don’t use them for IVF.
The process of egg freezing was initially invented as a way to preserve fertility before undergoing medical treatment like chemotherapy, which can lead to infertility. But today, women freeze their eggs for a variety of reasons to allow them to delay family building and overcome age-related fertility decline.
The number of eggs in the ovaries gradually decreases with each menstrual cycle. Starting around the mid-20s, the quality starts to go down as well. Studies show significant decreases in egg quality at ages 31, 35, and 37, which increases the probability of chromosomal (genetic) abnormalities and miscarriage as women get older. But although it may be easiest to have babies in the 20s and early 30s, that may not be the best timing for many people.
So, egg freezing is a great option for women who are pretty sure they would like to build a family, just not right now, and want to boost their chances of success once they’re ready to get pregnant.
Demographics of egg freezing
Studies show that women who undergo egg freezing are generally:
- Between the ages of 36–40
- Highly educated
The 4 most common reasons for egg freezing
Research shows that these are the top motivations for women to freeze their eggs:
The number one reason women freeze their eggs today is because they don’t have a partner. A 2018 study of 150 healthy, educated, and working American and Israeli women found that 85% froze their eggs because they were single.
The social pressure to find a partner and start a family can be quite stressful for many women. Egg freezing helps relieve this rush to settle down, and makes them feel more relaxed about dating and searching for a partner.
Research shows that women feel getting pregnant under the age of 35 would affect their careers. Therefore, many women choose to postpone family building due to professional reasons.
These may include having time to complete further education, get promoted to a higher position, or workplace inflexibility about pregnancy and motherhood. In the U.S., it’s also common for women in the military to freeze their eggs before going abroad.
Raising children is expensive, and that’s another big reason women freeze their eggs – to have more time to save up. Some researchers estimate that raising a child in the U.S. costs over $20,000 per year, with some states being more expensive than others.
And while egg freezing in itself is definitely a financial commitment, it could end up saving you money at the end of the day because it boosts the chances of IVF success when you’re older (meaning having to pay for fewer cycles).
4. Waiting until they feel emotionally ready for kids
Children are a huge responsibility, so beyond having your finances in order, it’s important to feel emotionally ready to take this step. Some women freeze their eggs to give themselves more time until they’re ready for the commitment.
What do women who have frozen their eggs think about the process?
Women see egg freezing as a form of insurance – a Plan B that’s nice to have, even if you don’t end up needing it.
In 2013, New York University conducted a patient survey among women who froze their eggs and found that the majority felt empowered by the process and that it improved their reproductive future.
Whatever your motivations are, it’s helpful to learn more about what the process of egg freezing entails and read through some experiences of women who have gone through it so you can make an informed decision.
This article has been reviewed by a physician
- New egg freezing guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Extend Fertility. Accessed 14 June 2023.
- Why do women freeze their eggs? Extend Fertility. Accessed 14 June 2023.
- Egg Freezing. BOSTON IVF. Accessed 14 June 2023.
- Inhorn MC et al.: Elective egg freezing and its underlying socio-demography: a binational analysis with global implications. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):70.
- The ESHRE Guideline Group on Female Fertility Preservation et al.: ESHRE guideline: female fertility preservation. Hum Reprod Open. 2020;2020(4):hoaa052.
- How Much It Costs to Raise a Small Child in Each State. Lending Tree. Accessed 06 July 2023.
- Fertility Rates: Declines for Younger Women, Increased for Older Women. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed 06 July 2023.
- Why having kids later is a really big deal. Business Insider. Accessed 06 July 2023.
- Martin J, M.P.H. et al.: Births: Final Data for 2013. National Vital Statistics Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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