Sofia Vergara is planning ahead.
The engaged actress, who hopes to expand her family with fiance Nick Loeb, recently revealed that she froze her eggs.
"I'm 40-years-old now," Vergara told Dr. Oz. "Things don’t happen naturally anymore so I’ve been very concerned about fertility and I wanted to take advantage of science."
Egg freezing, or “oocyte cryopreservation,” has given many women who are either struggling to conceive or are considering motherhood in the future, hope. And with high-profile careers involving grueling film schedules, tours and premiere appearances, it's no wonder some celebs view it as a smart move.
While there are no exact estimates of how many women have had their eggs frozen, the science journal Nature reported in 2011 that fewer than 2,000 people have been born from frozen eggs — 400 of them in the United States.
Even still, it's seen as an option for those who want to become parents — just not yet.
“Egg freezing was initially used to give cancer patients an opportunity to preserve their healthy eggs to undergoing chemotherapy or radiation," says infertility expert Mindy Berkson. "Today, with more women getting married and having children later in life, women are turning to egg freezing as a fertility preservation method. For these women, egg freezing serves as the biggest step in empowering them to take control of their reproduction when delaying childbearing. It’s really a future insurance policy for the chance at a biological offspring.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 10 percent of women in the U.S. have trouble getting or staying pregnant. By age 35, a woman’s chance of conceiving per month decreases in half. Then by age 45, natural fertility is reduced to only one percent.
And while egg freezing might seem like a good insurance policy when it comes to planning for a baby, some doctors fear that this Hollywood trend might give the wrong idea about what the procedure actually entails.
“Freezing eggs for future fertility is more controversial and there is no data to support recommending this procedure at this time,” says Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Samantha M. Pfeifer.
"Storing eggs at a young age necessitates going through in vitro fertilization with its inherent risks — though low — and storing eggs indefinitely," explains Pfeifer. "Currently, it is unclear how long eggs can be frozen. The longest known time to be safe is about four or five years. A young woman would potentially plan to store them for much longer. Also there is a concern that the woman would see this process as a guarantee for having a child in the future and she may intentionally delay childbearing because of this impression. This process does not guarantee having a child."
Egg freezing also comes with a price.
“It is very costly and there’s a lot involved,” says Dr. James Grifo, the program director of New York University’s Fertility Center where over 1,000 eggs have been frozen since 2004. “It depends on whether your insurance covers it. Usually it doesn’t. The procedure, including all the monitoring and lab work, can be about $10,000. There are also medication costs, which can be $3,000 and $5,000. And then there are storage costs, which every year, can be about $1,000. Add that up and it’s a lot of money for a chance that’s not a guarantee.”
However, he emphasizes, many patients are still considering this option because it’s a way to become one's own egg donor. In general, however, it is advised to discuss your options with a physician first to determine whether egg freezing is ultimately right for you.
In the case of 23-year-old Harvard graduate Elizabeth Moroney, who froze her eggs after cancer treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, the treatment was worth it.
“Emotionally, I feel more secure knowing that I have three eggs that could possibly be unfrozen to have children,” says Moroney, who hopes to become a mother someday. “The stress does not have to weigh on me anymore about making more family planning choices without a husband. It was such a positive experience that I may do a second round.”