Nyasha Foy was at an alumni networking event in New York in 2016 when an older sorority sister asked if she was planning to freeze her eggs. “I was taken aback, but then I felt a sense of comfort,” explains Foy. “She was asking me what should be a standard question among women.” Flash forward a few years to 2019, when Foy found herself visiting that same friend’s apartment every night for two weeks, a cool bag of meds in tow. Foy has a fear of needles, so the woman helped administer hormonal injections.
These stimulated her ovaries to produce multiple eggs, which were then surgically removed and frozen in a lab. The process is physically demanding, and could trigger a medley of PMS-like symptoms. Patients can require a week of rest and recovery afterward. Typically, this would have cost the 34-year-old New Yorker a minimum of $9,000, but she did not pay a dime. Instead, it was covered by her company, Complex Networks.
Foy is one of thousands of employees whose company has footed the bill for egg retrieval, freezing, and storage. Facebook first began offering this option to staff in 2014, after COO Sheryl Sandberg said she heard of a female employee with cancer who couldn’t afford to pay for her egg freezing—so the company stepped in. Soon after, other Silicon Valley tech firms like Google and Apple followed suit.
As well as medical egg freezing, for example, if a woman’s fertility is threatened by an illness like endometriosis or sickle cell anaemia, employer-backed programs cover “elective egg freezing,” and also often include IVF, adoption, donor and surrogacy services, fertility assessments, and education. The process is handled by private third-party fertility and family care providers like Kindbody and Carrot, which have boomed during the pandemic.
Gina Bartasi, founder and CEO of Kindbody, believes the reasons behind the surge are threefold. “Our patients have the flexibility in their work and personal schedule to think about egg freezing, and with Covid, meeting a potential mate out and about is a lot less likely,” she explains. “That and the law of large numbers—the more people who do it, the more people talk about it and feel comfortable with it.” In 2021, Kindbody’s clinics tripled in number and its revenue quadrupled. Ride-hailing app Lyft is among recent companies to have joined as a client, and is now providing the service to its staff.
Bartasi, who has been in the fertility industry for more than a decade, remembers when most companies were skeptical. By offering such a perk, they were seen to be pushing their workers into delaying parenthood, keeping them working longer. Things feel very different now. “In the US, it’s table stakes,” she says. “Young professional women ask about it in the interview process, and employees will leave if there’s not a fertility benefit when they want it.” Indeed, 68 percent of employees, according to one survey, would switch jobs for a better fertility policy. “Demand is from the employee up, instead of the employer down,” says Bartasi.