Glasses filled with champagne and other spirits in hand, around 85 women spent their Tuesday evening at a party around an increasingly popular topic and procedure among young professionals in San Francisco – egg freezing.
The pay-to-attend function, held on a 12th floor suite of The Westin St. Francis was the inaugural egg freezing party by EggBanxx, a startup whose CEO Gina Bartasi describes as “the Uber for the fertility industry.”
Considered a breakthrough affording women the opportunity to control their fertility, the process involves extracting the eggs during a menstrual cycle, deep freezing them for preservation and thawing them when they are ready for childbearing.
The extraction procedure, which can cost more than $6,000 per cycle, has been appealing particularly to women who’d rather focus on their careers, or those who are getting older and haven’t settled down.
EggBanxx isn’t the first to the local egg freezing party scene. Fertility clinics have been hosting them frequently since last year.
But Bartasi says it’s the first digital platform that connects patients with top providers and enables users to purchase procedure cycles online or through an app.
And women seem to be buying into it.
Emeryville resident Iva Smith, 41, heard about EggBanxx’s party through a friend at her workplace, a gaming company in Silicon Valley, who asked her to come along. When her friend bailed at the last minute, Smith decided to go it alone.
“I’m not getting any younger and have not decided what I want to do about kids, so it was nice to come and learn about some options,” said Smith, adding the company for which she works as a recruiter “unfortunately” doesn’t cover the procedure for its employees.
Apple and Facebook are the only two tech giants that currently pay up to $20,000 per worker toward the procedure, which can preserve eggs for an indefinite amount of time.
Egg freezing was considered an experimental technique by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine until October 2012.
Since then, UC San Francisco has been offering consultations and the procedure for elective reasons. There has been a “significant increase in interest,” said Evelyn Mok-Lin, an assistant professor at the university’s Center for Reproductive Health.
The important thing to remember, Mok-Lin said, is that a woman’s biological clock is dictated by the age of the eggs and ovaries, not the uterus or womb, meaning egg freezing before the age of 35 typically means a higher success rate. And even then, she said the procedure should be a back-up plan.
“It should be used as an insurance policy, not literally putting all your eggs in one basket,” Mok-Lin said. “There’s no guarantee simply because you froze some eggs.”
Egg freezing parties have drawn the most attendees in metropolitan cities where women are focused on advancing their careers, but in San Francisco and New York City in particular, the patients have been highly informed and proactive, Bartasi said.
“You just can tell it’s an educated patient population and it’s empowered,” she said about women in The City. “There were four times as many questions asked than in New York and the questions were harder for physicians to answer.”
EggBanxx, which has hosted 11 parties in major cities since launching in March 2014, aims to spread the word about egg freezing to women ages 31 to 33 since their success rates are generally higher. The average age of women at Tuesday’s party was 33.
Attendees mingled over drinks, small bites and then listened to an hourlong presentation with doctors from UCSF, Stanford Medicine and Laurel Fertility Care. Afterward, they could meet face-to-face with providers.
Fairfield resident Cherry Dela Cruz, 30, a founder of three Bay Area startups, decided to attend the EggBanxx party after wishing her friend a happy Father’s Day at another party on Sunday and being asked in return when he could wish her a happy Mother’s Day.
“I said, ‘Hopefully I’ll feel it someday but with everything I have going on now, I don’t feel it’s necessary to have a family,’” said Dela Cruz, whose boyfriend of seven years has been a partner in both her food catering and two tech startups.
Dela Cruz said she plans to talk about egg freezing with her boyfriend, mother and boyfriend’s career-driven sister who had a child at age 41, and would likely hold off on the procedure until she is between 35 and 37 years old.
“My companies are pretty young right now. I want to make sure they’re stable,” she said. “And stability means a better future for your kids.”
For more information on EggBanxx and providers in its network, visit www.EggBanxx.com or call 855-552-2699.