As the cost of storing frozen eggs rises, some families opt to destroy them

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Caitlyn Plaskett and her wife, Wanda, finally felt like they had to make a decision: keep paying high monthly storage fees to keep their five embryos frozen, or have them destroyed to save money.

The couple used donor sperm to conceive their two sons, ages 3½ and 18 months. They were paying $65 per month to keep their remaining embryos stored — a cost, they said, that steadily rose each year by $10 to $15 per month.

“I need to make a decision by this point. Otherwise, I’m just throwing money away,” Plaskett, 33, thought to herself for months.

The pair’s finances continued to tighten as groceries became more expensive on top of the $250 a week they spend in child care for their oldest son in Richmond. They ultimately signed paperwork to dispose of their embryos last summer.

The couple’s decision has become increasingly common as egg, embryo and sperm storage fees have spiked since 2019 due to inflation and supply chain pressures. Many people feel stuck and forced to pay high monthly or annual storage fees, as The Washington Post reported last spring. But others are making the emotionally difficult decision to destroy or donate their genetic material to science to cut costs.

Plaskett, a social worker, and her wife, a city law enforcement official, spent more than $55,000 total in fertility procedures to have their sons. A year ago, after realizing they couldn’t afford to have a third child, the couple looked into donating their embryos to another family. However, Plaskett said, their clinic, Shady Grove Fertility in Richmond, did not have space to store donated embryos and her family would have had to continue paying for storage.

It took a month coordinating with their clinic and signing forms to dispose of their embryos.

“My wife says she’s 1,000 percent sure we made the right decision, but I’m 99 percent. Three kids would be really rough, but there’s always that little inkling. You have little fantasy moments like, what if we could’ve had another?” Plaskett said.

Not paying embryo storage fees hasn’t felt like it freed up much money in Plaskett’s budget, however. “Everything still feels tight,” she said. The couple just began paying $300 per week in child care for their youngest son.

Storage companies and fertility clinics are typically private companies that set their own prices.

“It’s an expensive proposition to do what we do. And the tolerance of risk is effectively zero,” Eric Widra, chief medical officer at Shady Grove Fertility, told The Post last year.

Widra said fertility insurance rates have increased and clinics have enhanced electronic monitoring and alarm systems to safeguard against mishaps and disasters, such as the 2018 storage-tank accidents that happened in Ohio and California.

“I am not surprised that there’s cost increases based on how difficult it’s been for us to deal with supply chain and personnel issues,” Widra said.

For David Vaughn, a 44-year-old television and theater writer in northern New Jersey, the $650 annual renewal bill for the 11 embryos he shares with his husband, Brian, forced them to decide if they wanted more than their young son and daughter.

“The insane cost of surrogacy and not having family in our area made us realize having a third kid is unaffordable,” Vaughn said.

He and his husband donated the embryos to science in November.

“For gay couples who are doing this using an egg donor, it is like saying, ‘No more kids,’” Vaughn said. “It is so final. Even if it’s the right call and you’re 100 percent committed to it, it’s a hard decision to make.”

Allison Puca, 41, a project manager in Bethesda, Md., started her journey to become a single mother by choice in 2019 after dreaming of being a mom her whole life.

She underwent four intrauterine insemination attempts using sperm from two donors.

After doing one in vitro fertilization cycle during the coronavirus pandemic, Puca was able to get four embryos. She now has a 16-month-old daughter.

She spent around $10,000 on donor sperm from a total of four donors.

After her fertility treatments, Puca says she was spending $50 per month to keep one vial of donor sperm frozen and another $60 per month to keep her three remaining embryos frozen. “My rates were just going up and up,” she said.

Puca is debating whether to give her daughter a sibling, and is not considering destroying or donating her embryos. But in March 2023, she decided to discard a vial of sperm she spent $1,200 on.

There was a $15 online notary fee to discard the sperm, Puca said. “It was just like salt to a wound, in a sense. I had paid so much already. It felt like nonsense,” she said.

She lamented opaque and inconsistent pricing around storage costs. “You just feel chained,” she said. “They have your genetics, and they can just throw them away if you don’t pay. It’s like you don’t have control.”

Kirsten Strom, a Chicago-based costumer success manager at a tech company, froze 19 eggs in 2021.

The 38-year-old paid $675 to keep her eggs in storage in 2022. This year, she got a bill for $750.

She said she’s no longer focused on becoming a mom, but egg freezing gave her “peace of mind” in case she wants to have a child in the future.

Strom researched less expensive facilities to move her eggs to but didn’t want to risk potential damage or something going wrong.

“They’ve suckered me in,” she said. “It’s more advantageous for me for me to continue paying these really high cryo-storage fees than to find a deal and possibly have something happen to my eggs.”

Women who have undergone costly and physically challenging treatments to obtain their eggs and embryos face emotional and mental obstacles when considering discarding or donating them due to price increases.

Daniela Wood struggled with infertility after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. She and her husband underwent several rounds of fertility treatments to conceive their two daughters.

She has 12 embryos frozen in storage in Maplewood, N.J. She recently received her annual renewal bill — $1,200.

Wood, a mental health counselor, said that if storage costs were more affordable, she would keep her embryos stored for longer, but the price has become too high to upkeep.

Wood, 33, says she feels like her family is complete but has an attachment to the embryos. “I went through a lot physically. I don’t know if I’m ready yet to let go of them.”

In early March, she received another notice that her storage fee is past due. “I know we have to make a decision really soon,” she said.

“You don’t think about this when you go into IVF because you are so focused on having a baby,” Wood said. “It triggers an emotional response. You go back and remember the hopelessness and fear. IVF is such a hellish process to go through, and then you have this financial burden that just kind of keeps showing up in your mailbox to bother you.”

Yeganeh Torbati contributed to this report.

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