Rockville, MD [February 3, 2023] – US Fertility founding partner Shady Grove Fertility (SGF) recognizes Women Physicians Day with the launch of a new program aimed to ease the financial burden of egg-freezing costs for surgical residents, a population with a higher risk of infertility.
Female surgeons are at an increased risk of infertility and pregnancy complications due to the demand of surgical training schedules and the likelihood of delaying family-building while establishing their early surgical careers. The Egg Freezing for Surgical Residents program aims to safeguard family-building options for female surgical residents by offering egg-freezing services at a significant discount so that women can feel more confident when pursuing careers in surgery. The program’s egg-freezing cycle package includes concierge scheduling, monitoring, egg retrieval, and cryopreservation of eggs. Prices vary slightly by practice region and eligibility and exclusion criteria apply.
“I began my own egg-freezing journey while on night shift rotations as an OB/GYN resident. Looking back 10 years later, now 38 years old, engaged, and ready to start my own family, I’m relieved to have frozen my eggs. Otherwise, I know I would have a higher chance of infertility, miscarriage, and chromosomal abnormalities if I conceived naturally at my current age,” shares SGF Atlanta physician and program lead, Valerie Libby, M.D., M.P.H. “At the same time, I feel obligated to give back and address the often-unspoken toll that surgical training has on women. I am incredibly proud to work for organizations like US Fertility and SGF that have supported my development of an innovative program that will help women feel more confident when pursuing surgical careers.”
While women represent 35.2% of active physicians, less than 25% of physicians in the surgical specialties are women. On average, female surgical residents are 10 years older at the time of the birth of their first child compared to their peers in the general US population. Surgical residents who found themselves pregnant during training cited negative stigmas associated with their choice to train while pregnant and dissatisfaction with childcare support and maternity leave options. 39% of these residents seriously considered leaving their residency programs and 30% would advise other women against pursuing a surgical career.
“It is time we reckon with the hard truth that many female physicians sacrifice opportunities to build their families in their pursuit of medical training, particularly those in the surgical specialties,” says Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, M.D., President of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). “AMWA commends US Fertility and SGF for raising awareness around the issue of physician fertility and providing a forward-thinking solution that helps extend family-planning options to surgery residents who are considering egg freezing. AMWA is working to change the culture of medical training so that building a family and building a career are equally attainable.”
A lack of timely awareness of the potential need for fertility preservation treatment is a key issue amongst female surgical residents. Discussions around infertility often take place late in a surgeon’s career, past the optimal childbearing age. A lack of family-building support from surgical training programs compounds the problem of underrepresentation and attrition amongs surgical trainees. A new initiative from the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) outlines key steps training programs should consider, including recommendations for offering fertility insurance coverage, better paid leave benefits, and childcare support.
“The Association of Women Surgeons would like to congratulate US Fertility and Shady Grove Fertility on the program to make egg freezing more affordable for surgical residents,” shares Marybeth Hughes, M.D., FACS, President of the Association of Women Surgeons. “It is an important tool in family planning, particularly for women in lengthy, rigorous surgical training. We wholeheartedly support access to strategies for successful family planning including this program.”
Increasing diversity among the physician workforce is in the best interest of patients and organizations. Studies link diversity in the medical workforce with a higher quality of patient care as well as improved fiscal performance. Medical school costs alone are a significant barrier to entry, especially for students from underrepresented populations. Finding innovative ways to financially assist those in training can help improve high attrition rates and the overall diversity of residency programs.
Egg freezing was considered experimental until 2012 when the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) jointly announced that they would no longer consider oocyte cryopreservation, or egg-freezing, an experimental procedure. While many practices continue to lack the volume and long-term data to understand their egg-freezing success rates, US Fertility is one of the few fertility networks with published egg-freezing pregnancy data. Should program participants choose to continue their treatment post-cryopreservation at a US Fertility practice, they will be able to better understand their probability of taking home a baby. For example, SGF has published data estimating that a woman younger than 38 who freezes 15 – 20 mature eggs will have a 70 – 80% chance of at least one live birth.
Interested participants can learn more about the Egg Freezing for Surgical Residents program using this link. The program is now accepting applications and inquiries and will officially launch in March of 2023.