Marriage and parenthood trends are shifting—as they have been for decades. Today, in almost half of U.S. households with children, both parents work full-time. People have higher expectations for marriage and are looking for the perfect fit. And less people than ever are getting married—only 30 percent of millennials name a successful marriage as a major life goal.
Greater hurdles to financial success and an increase in career opportunities for women, among other factors, delay marriage and babies. In 2014, only 42 percent of millennial women ages 18 to 33 were moms, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data. When Gen X women were around the same age, 49 percent were moms.
But that doesn’t mean millennials don’t want children. In 2015, 1.3 millennial women in the U.S. became first-time moms, according to an analysis of National Center for Health Statistics data by the Pew Research Center. That means 16 million millennials, a generation that makes up a third of the country’s population, are now mothers, and the vast majority of births these days—eight in 10—are to millennial moms.
On top of that, many millennials who haven’t had children yet still plan to. In a Pew survey, 52 percent said having kids was one of their top life goals, far ahead of having a successful marriage. They also rated being a good parent as a top priority.
As the the trend of millennials putting off parenthood strengthens, so does another one: women freezing their eggs for later. Through this procedure, a woman’s eggs are harvested, frozen in vials and stored in an egg bank until she’s ready to use them, taking away some of the pressure of the “biological clock” —as a woman ages, the eggs she was born with die off at a faster rate and become less viable.
Doctors have been harvesting eggs for decades, but the practice has only recently become more commonplace. NPR reported in 2015 that the number of women taking this option grew by more than 700 percent between 2009 and 2013, though the numbers remain relatively small.
While it’s getting more popular, the complicated and expensive procedure doesn’t guarantee a child by any means. In fact, it can be an incredibly difficult process. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine estimates the chance that a frozen egg will yield a baby at about 2 to 12 percent.
In an interview with the Washington Post, reproductive endocrinologist Kate Devine suggests women should freeze their eggs by the age of 35 for the best chances of success down the road. Most doctors recommend freezing 20 eggs, which improves your odds at pregnancy later.
There’s still not a ton of data, but research so far suggests previously frozen eggs produce healthy children when parents do find success with the process. Brigitte Adams, the woman behind Eggsurance, a blog about egg freezing, was unable to get pregnant using eggs she had frozen years before. She advised hopeful parents maintain a realistic view of egg freezing when embarking on that journey.
“If you take anything away from my story, please become your own advocate,” she wrote. “These are your eggs, your future child so: ask the questions, do your homework, find a doctor you like, make sure the lab is top-notch and remember that freezing your eggs is a possibility of a future child–not a guarantee.”