Elizabeth McQueen’s demanding career as an engineer drastically changed from weekly travels to steps from her living room to kitchen as the COVID-19 pandemic paused life as we know it. Egg freezing was always an attractive option to McQueen, who first visited Shady Grove Fertility physician, Dr. Naveed Khan, several years earlier. Yet, the required ultrasounds, bloodwork, injections, and medication proved challenging with her busy schedule – that was, until egg freezing during the pandemic emerged as a more realistic option.

SGF was recently interviewed by TIME Magazine and Washingtonian to explore the rise in women freezing their eggs in 2020 compared to previous years. Between the two articles, SGF physicians and staff identified three main reasons why women are choosing to freeze eggs during a global pandemic:

  • The pandemic offers women more time to reflect on their futures.
  • The pandemic may offer working women more flexibility in their schedules in order to schedule time for physician consults and appointments.
  • Women are taking advantage of their job security and insurance coverage.

To get a better understanding of egg freezing trends, TIME tapped 54 fertility centers across major American cities, including SGF, which has 37 locations across the eastern seaboard, for their input. SGF has seen a 50% increase in women freezing their eggs since 2019, among other fertility trends made apparent during 2020. In March 2020, SGF was forced to limit fertility treatment services, but upon full reopening, experienced a 52% increase in egg freezing from June through September 2020.

SGF Experiences Surge in Egg Freezing during Global Pandemic

“Everybody had to take a hard stop in their lives,” said Sharon Covington, MSW, LCSW-C, Director of Psychological Support Services at SGF, to TIME. “And I think what happened was it gave people the time and the space to kind of reassess their priorities and the directions that they’re taking in their life.”

Upon assessing why there is a significant surge in cycles, Covington explained that the women she sees are freezing their eggs because of the pandemic, not in spite of it. Women who were once occupied with busy social and professional lives are now grounded at home. This time in isolation allows women, like McQueen, to pursue treatment privately.

McQueen visited Dr. Khan once more to initiate first steps toward freezing her eggs in the summer of 2020. Her age and stalled travel schedule were the most pressing factors in moving forward with the procedure, an act of family-building security she would have pursued regardless of the pandemic. However, working from home allowed her to undergo more cycles, which increases her chances of having viable eggs for an eventual pregnancy.

“The pandemic did not slow my workload, it just literally kept me in one place because of the travel restrictions,” McQueen shared with Washingtonian. “So, for that reason alone, it became an ideal time to engage in this process [of egg-freezing].”

Over the course of 3 months, McQueen worked with Dr. Khan to complete three cycles yielding 22 eggs. Three months is a perfectly feasible time frame for McQueen now, but would have been extremely challenging with her pre-pandemic schedule. When weighing time as a key motivator for egg freezing, Dr. Khan shared with Washingtonian, “People have more time, and I think they have more time to think about it and act.”

While McQueen’s not sure when she’ll have a child, she says the entire process has left her with a greater sense of security. “It’s great that [people] have the ability to do this, especially busy working professionals,” she says. “More than anything, it was empowering.”

The Rise in Egg Freezing Over the Years

In the TIME article, staggering data on egg freezing over the greater part of a decade is revealed. In 2009, just 475 women froze their eggs, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). By 2018, 13,275 women did so, an increase of 2,695%.

SGF’s own employee and patient, Melanie Bradshaw, was among the small cohort of women who froze their eggs in 2009. Bradshaw had her sights set on traveling the world rather than micro-monitoring her biological clock, leading her to freeze 23 eggs with SGF. In 2020, nearly 11 years after freezing her eggs, Bradshaw returned to SGF to thaw her eggs for IVF treatment and is now happily adjusting to life with her newborn.

For patients who are waiting to freeze their eggs until receiving the vaccine, SGF Atlanta’s Pavna Brahma, M.D., says this is a totally viable option. “Two to 6 months rarely makes a huge change in their fertility,” shares Dr. Brahma with TIME. “I don’t want women to feel pressured by the pandemic.”

Fertility preservation and egg freezing are key influencers in Dr. Brahma’s passion for reproductive endocrinology, positioning her career more as a mission rather than a job. She hopes to expand access to egg freezing and inform women about its empowering benefits.

Helpful Egg Freezing Resources

The best time to have a baby is an incredibly personal decision and one that takes significant thought and consideration. SGF has been freezing eggs using vitrification technology since 2009, performing hundreds of cycles each year for women like McQueen. Pandemic or not, SGF will continue to help women gain a sense of empowerment over their fertility with the security of egg freezing.

To learn more about Shady Grove Fertility and Egg Freezing, explore these helpful resources: 

To learn more about egg freezing or to schedule an appointment, call 1-877-411-9292 to speak with a New Patient Liaison.