To freeze or not to freeze?
It’s the fastest growing dimension of the multi-billion dollar fertility industry. Women in the 20s, 30s and 40s choosing to freeze their eggs while they wait for the perfect partner or navigate the ideal career path.
In Australia currently at least one woman a week is undergoing the procedure and the number is expected to rise dramatically based on figures from the US.
The startling reality is that most women are turning to egg freezing while they wait for a suitable partner.
"The statistic here in Australia and in America show that women have delayed motherhood because they haven’t found Mr Right."
"They are waking up at 36, 37 and saying 'Oh my god, I forgot to have a baby'."
But critics argue promoters of egg freezing aren’t giving women the full picture and some are fiercely opposed to programs being offered by some of the world’s biggest companies to encourage and support their female employees to undertake egg freezing.
For many women it’s a race against time. Once a female is born she has about 1 million eggs and the clock starts ticking, by the time a girl hits puberty almost half of her eggs have died. Once a woman is in her late 20’s her fertility is declining and by 35 the quality of her eggs is reduced as well as the number. After 40, the odds are against you.
In order to have a chance of producing one baby, 10 eggs must be extracted and practitioners recommend storing at least 20 for a good chance.
Over two weeks, a woman must give herself hormone injections every day, resulting in mood swings and body changes, and undergo several ultrasounds before an extraction procedure. After all that the procedure, which comes with a $10,000 price tag, does not guarantee of a baby.
"I don’t want to have to pigeon holed into a relationship with some guy just because of a biological clock." says Allison, who has allowed Sunday Night to follow her through the process of putting motherhood on ice.
She says the price tag is worth it.
"It is like, do I want a new car or do I want a baby. I want a baby," says the 36-year-old professional from Los Angeles.
Once a safeguard option for women undergoing cancer treatment, a relaxation of regulations in the US has opened the flood gate to a new market of healthy women who want to flexibility around their fertility.
Now even tech giants including Facebook and Apple have begun offering a $20,000 benefit to subsidise the procedure for their female staff.
But some say employers should not be encouraging the process.
"How dare an employer get involved in a woman’s reproductive life and her decision?" Says women’s health advocate Miriam Zoll, author of “Cracked Open”. .
"They’re marketing hope – the egg freezing businesses, but they’re also marketing the sense that these women can control the future and in fact they can’t."
Miriam Zoll says there are no guarantees and women are being encouraged to wait under the illusion that they can have a baby whenever they want.
"You are not invincible and mother nature is very very powerful. She is more powerful than science so be careful how you choose but choose wisely."
Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, explains the problem with big business becoming involved in a woman’s reproductive decisions.
She says on the surface companies are claiming to correct a gender imbalance by offering this option, but in fact it is a risky gamble.
"From the perspective of the company... They get as much value out of these young women as they possibly can."
"After all [they have] allowed you to freeze your eggs, you can that those out when you're 45 or 50 after we've exacted as much energy from you as we can."
"It looks like a real choice but then once you unpack what it actually is ... it is like actually a lottery as to whether or not you get pregnant."
Watch the full story in the video above