Our grandmothers may have attended Tupperware parties, and our mothers, Mary Kay parties, but as for us modern day women? Well, we might be more likely to be invited to an egg social.
Unlike the brunch you’re probably picturing, you won’t find any omelettes or delicious eggs benedict at these parties. Instead, egg freezing parties, or “egg socials,” are events designed to help educate women about egg freezing in a setting that’s a little less intimidating than a traditional doctor’s office. (You know, without stirrups and stuff.)
One New York fertility clinic describes egg socials as “learning about egg freezing in a casual setting helps women realize that this trend is a social issue – not a medical problem.” The events usually take place in glamorous locations, such as luxury hotels, and feature amenities such as fancy cocktails, refreshments, and gift bags. Women mingle, sip on drinks, and talk about the future of their reproductive health. Just your normal weekday stuff, right?
If you’re wondering what the heck egg freezing is, it’s the process when a woman’s eggs are retrieved from her ovaries, frozen, and then stored until if and when she decides to use them. One of the freezing methods, vitrification, instantly freezes a woman’s eggs at the age she is at the moment of retrieval. In other words, it can preserve her eggs when she is at her peak fertility.
Typically, experts recommend that a woman freeze her eggs in her mid-twenties to early-to-mid thirties, as “younger” eggs tend to be healthier. Proponents of the process maintain that egg freezing gives women who might not be ready for motherhood in their twenties or early thirties options for later.
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo, 44, a freelance writer and marketing communications professional, was the director of patient care for Fertility Authority, which started EggBanxx in 2014. Although EggBanxx no longer is operating, Palumbo says the company was one of the first of its kind to ever host an “egg social,” and the success of their parties prompted other fertility organizations to host similar events.
Contrary to the kind of image an “egg social” might conjure up in your mind, Palumbo assures that the events are not just women mingling and drinking. Instead, they are helpful gatherings where women can feel comfortable asking important and sometimes intimate questions about egg freezing. She notes that there are actually a lot of misconceptions out there about fertility and egg freezing. For example, many women believe that if you freeze your eggs, you are obligated to use them to have a baby later in life.
“Freezing your eggs does not mean that you will have to use them to conceive,” she explains. “But if you find you have fertility issues when you are ready to have children, they are available as an option.”
So, what actually happens at an egg freezing party? Don’t worry, Palumbo assures us that no one is getting drunk and getting their egg retrieved right then and there at the bar. Instead, egg socials usually begin with a little mingling, followed by a panel of reproductive endocrinologists that give a brief overview of egg freezing, and finally, a Q&A session with questions from the guests.
“The question portion was always the longest, which is good,” she notes. “People [get] to learn a lot in an informal setting.”
Basically, egg freezing is an insurance policy of sorts for motherhood. Invest now just in case you want to have a baby later and experience challenges conceiving, or find yourself without a partner once you decide you’re ready for motherhood. In Palumbo’s opinion, an egg social is, at its core, just an opportunity to talk about fertility issues in a relaxed way — which is always a good thing.
“Whether you freeze your eggs or not, I think that is SO important for all women to … just know [their] fertility health,” she adds.
And while our grandmother’s Tupperware parties were relatively harmless (aside from that occasional neighbor who may have enjoyed too much special punch), egg socials are not without criticism that suggests the informal, relaxed setting distracts from the fact that egg freezing can be physically difficult for a woman, very expensive, and without guarantee.
In the end, however, for women like Palumbo who know the pain of trying to conceive, egg socials present a message of hope for the future for the next generation of women who might want to become mothers someday.
After trying to conceive when she was 35 years old, Palumbo shares that it took she and her husband three years and three rounds of IVF to have their first son. Going through that experience is what prompted the now mother of two sons, ages 5 and 2, to speak more publicly about fertility issues.
“It was a lot of heartache, strain and money,” she says. “This is why, when it comes to egg freezing, while there are more eggs frozen then there are live births from those eggs and there isn’t enough data to have solid success rates, I still think having AN option is better than having no options.”