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Program allows women to donate half their eggs, freeze the rest for free amid rising costs

Egg-freezing costs spur new donation programs
Innovative program offers free egg freezing for egg donations 08:25

As egg freezing becomes more popular, many young women face the challenge of affording the procedure. The average cost to freeze eggs in the United States is around $10,000. Despite these high costs, in 2022, nearly 30,000 egg freezing cycles were performed in the U.S., which is up from just 7,600 in 2015.

A painful and costly journey

Ten days of painful hormone shots were part of Angie's journey to preserve her fertility. The 26-year-old medical student documented her experience in a video diary, sharing the physical and emotional challenges she faced. On the day of her egg retrieval, she was able to preserve 34 eggs. Shocked by the number, Angie decided to keep half of her eggs and donate the rest.

Angie couldn't have afforded to freeze her eggs without the help of Cofertility's "Split" program. This initiative allows women to freeze their eggs for free if she donates half of her mature eggs to a person or couple seeking a donor. Both the donor and the intended parent must agree to the match. The intended parent covers all of the donor's medical costs and a 10 year storage fee, along with an $8,000 fee to Cofertility.

"What was super appealing to me was the chance to have my eggs, the freezing covered for free," she said.

She said she feels good knowing that she will be helping someone else while also having her future eggs stored for the day she decides she wants a family.

Lauren Makler is the co-founder of Cofertility, which launched in 2022. She said in the unlikely event a donor is unable to produce any or many mature eggs, she will not be responsible for any costs. The intended parent would still cover it.

Cofertility's Split Program

According to Cofertility, Split donors must be between 21 and 33 years old and undergo comprehensive medical screenings based on FDA and American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines, as well as have psychological and legal counseling.

Makler said the ideal time for women to freeze their eggs is when they are younger, which is often when they can least afford it. She also mentioned that her program offers mutual benefits, as there is a high demand for egg donors today, with many people needing help to grow their families.

When asked if there may be a concern about whether some young women might feel pressured to donate eggs to afford to freeze their own, Makler said she does not believe this is the case.

"It's an option that is great for some people and not for others," she added.

For intended parents seeking fresh donor eggs, Cofertility's model—where donors are not paid—offers an average savings of about $8,000 compared to traditional egg banks that compensate donors.

Cofertility does not guarantee anonymity but offers matches the option to be in contact or not with each other and any future child.

If a woman goes through the screening and finds out she is not eligible to be a donor, or chooses not to donate her eggs, Cofertility offers a Keep program, where a woman can freeze her eggs at a discounted cost.

Real-life impact

While Makler emphasizes the ethical approach of their program compared to traditional egg banks that offer cash compensation, Arthur Caplan, an ethics professor at New York University, advises potential donors to consider the implications of having a biological child they may not know at the price of freezing their eggs.

Nikole, a 27-year-old from New York City, had reservations about donating her eggs, but eventually found peace with her decision. She had initial hesitations about giving away her DNA and questioned if she was entirely comfortable with the idea. It took her about a month and a half to come to terms with it and feel confident in her choice. 

"I realized that it wasn't really about me, and it is about somebody else and their family, and I have the opportunity to create a family of my own," she said. "I get really emotional thinking about what I'm doing for someone, and it really makes my heart happy."

Nikole helped Maiko, a single gay man from Miami, achieve his dream of having children. Maiko received 17 eggs from Nikole, and his surrogate is now pregnant with twins due on Valentine's Day. 

"I just burst out in tears. It really became real that this is happening, and just to get that good news, and that it's twins and everything, it was just overwhelming," Maiko said.

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