If she discovered the suitable man, Kari Arenberg may see herself having youngsters. However her work was by no means conducive to courting, not to mention to freezing her eggs in hopes of leaving her choices open. The 31-year-old occasion producer traveled consistently between New York Metropolis and Los Angeles, with lengthy days lifting heavy bins and operating round venues.

Then, in 2020, Arenberg was furloughed, and the egg-freezing course of grew to become, for the primary time in her life, logistically attainable. She moved in along with her household in Chicago and visited a clinic. Quickly she was giving herself as many as three pictures a day to stimulate her ovaries, and visiting the clinic each few days for bloodwork and an ultrasound to find out when the eggs could be prepared for retrieval. She was in a position to freeze 21 eggs, a feat that doubtless would have been not possible if she had needed to give herself pictures whereas stuffed into airplane bogs or attempting to schedule visits to the clinic across the nationwide occasions, like Comedian Con, that she produces. “I like my work and need to prioritize it,” Arenberg says. “So it’s ironic that my profession additionally stored me from doing this earlier.”

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, fertility clinics braced themselves for a downturn. Individuals have been avoiding the physician’s workplace because the spring, first as a result of they feared publicity to the virus and later as a result of many individuals who’ve been laid off or furloughed can’t afford the medical payments. Fertility therapies are costly, and the price of egg freezing ranges from $6,000 to $20,000. (Arenberg’s was $12,000—an particularly daunting price after shedding work.)

However clinics throughout the nation are reporting an uptick in ladies freezing their eggs in the course of the pandemic. Although no group within the U.S. collects nationwide information, 54 clinics throughout main American cities together with Denver, Atlanta and Seattle advised TIME that the variety of ladies freezing their eggs has elevated year-over-year—a powerful stat contemplating most of these clinics have been compelled to close down and droop fertility therapies within the early months of the pandemic. A further 5 clinics reported the identical variety of egg freezing cycles in 2020 as in 2019 regardless of being closed wherever from one to a few months in 2020. Solely two clinics advised TIME that they had seen a lower within the variety of ladies freezing their eggs since 2019. “We didn’t know what to anticipate,” says Colleen Wagner Coughlin, the founding father of OVA Egg Freezing Middle in Chicago. “If something we anticipated a downturn. However we’ve seen an enormous improve—a number of hundred extra new sufferers [in 2020].”

At some clinics, the adjustments have been strong. When TIME collected information in November, Shady Grove Fertility, which runs 36 clinics throughout the Jap seaboard, had seen a 50% improve in ladies freezing their eggs since 2019. Medical doctors at NYU Langone noticed a 41% year-over-year improve in ladies fertilizing their eggs. And Seattle Reproductive Medication had carried out 289 egg-freezing cycles in 2020, in contrast with 242 in 2019, a virtually 20% soar.

Unable to see buddies in individual in the course of the pandemic, Kari Arenberg, backside proper, relieved her nerves about self-administering hormone injections by sharing the method with buddies over video chat The hormone pictures trigger “plenty of bloating and cramping and feelings,” says Arenberg. “It’s not precisely conducive to getting work accomplished. It actually feels such as you’re carrying round a sack of eggs.”

Courtesy of Kari Arenberg.

Sharon Covington, a therapist who supplies counseling providers at Shady Grove Fertility Clinic, is “busier than ever” providing psychological well being help to ladies contemplating fertility therapies, together with egg freezing. She says the ladies she sees are freezing their eggs as a result of of the pandemic, not despite it. Girls who usually journey for work, like Arenberg, are grounded. These with busy social lives are alone at dwelling. Their schedules are open. However that point in isolation has additionally afforded area for reflection. “Everyone needed to take a tough cease of their lives,” Covington says. “And I believe what occurred with that’s that it gave individuals the time and the area to sort of reassess their priorities and the instructions that they’re taking of their life.”

Many single individuals really feel as in the event that they’ve fallen a yr behind on their life plans. Relationship was virtually not possible firstly of the pandemic. Even now, near-strangers should negotiate a tough social dance with each other when they comply with meet up for a distanced drink—when can they hug, kiss and even simply go indoors collectively? When will they really feel secure with each other? “I truly went on just a few dates,” says Arenberg, “however sitting exterior shivering in Chicago within the winter isn’t conducive to discovering somebody.”

Learn Extra: The Coronavirus Is Altering How We Date. Specialists Suppose the Shifts Might Be Everlasting

Arenberg first heard about egg freezing when the winner of the Bachelor’s 2015 season, Whitney Bischoff Angel, revealed that she froze her eggs. Egg freezing has steadily grown extra fashionable within the years because the American Society of Reproductive Medication (ASRM) eliminated the “experimental” label from the process in 2012. Many ladies have been already freezing their eggs for medical causes, both as a result of they have been going by means of a medical process like chemotherapy that would scale back their fertility or had a medical situation like endometriosis that would negatively impression capacity to conceive. However with the change in labeling got here the rise of what docs name “social egg freezing”—ladies who freeze their eggs just because they aren’t able to have a baby but. In 2009, simply 475 ladies froze their eggs, in line with the Society for Assisted Reproductive Expertise. By 2018, 13,275 ladies did so, a rise of two,695%.

The spike comes thanks partly to celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Michaela Coel and Emma Roberts sharing their very own egg-freezing tales. Kourtney Kardashian went as far as to movie her egg freezing preparation on Retaining Up With the Kardashians, and Amy Schumer shared footage of her bloated and bruised abdomen as she took the pictures this summer time to freeze her eggs as a part of her IVF course of. They’ve demystified a course of that was little identified only a few years in the past, together with, in Schumer’s case, essentially the most uncomfortable facets.

René Hurtado, a 28-year-old in Scottsdale, Ariz., knew that she may need to remain dwelling within the weeks earlier than her egg retrieval in case she suffered unwanted effects like cramping or complications, and believed the pandemic could be the best time to nurse these pains with out lacking meetups with buddies. “On day 5 of injections, I couldn’t even stroll. I solely felt good if I used to be mendacity flat on my mattress,” she says. She needed to take a number of days off from her job at WeWork whereas she recovered. “In an alternate world, I used to be purported to be in Miami for a bachelorette social gathering that week. Thank God I did this throughout COVID so I didn’t should see anybody or go wherever as a result of I used to be in a lot ache.”

René Hurtado, 28, took a selfie before a doctor retrieved her eggs at a clinic in Arizona

René Hurtado, 28, took a selfie earlier than a health care provider retrieved her eggs at a clinic in Arizona

Courtesy of René Hurtado.

Hurtado’s provided egg freezing as a part of the corporate’s advantages package deal, a perk that’s develop into more and more fashionable amongst startups as a way of attracting ladies employees (or, in critics’ eyes, pressuring employees to prioritize work over household). However the trendiness of egg freezing in Silicon Valley could also be reaching its peak. Some docs have solid doubt as as to whether corporations will proceed to supply this pricey profit when many organizations are selecting between cutbacks and layoffs. Wagner Coughlin, the founding father of OVA in Chicago, mentioned that her group is already wanting into a brand new fee construction in anticipation of corporations’ dropping the profit.

Michael Jacobs, a health care provider on the IVF Middle of Miami, believes that second has already arrived. He was one of many few docs who advised TIME his clinic was seeing a downturn in egg-freezing charges. “In cities like New York and Los Angeles, perhaps there are extra individuals who can afford the price of egg freezing proper now,” he says. “However I believe lots of people listed here are simply nervous about paying their payments.”

The excessive value of egg freezing has lengthy meant solely a selected subset of sufferers—largely higher class, and largely white—pursue the method: a examine of practically 30,000 egg retrievals by ASRM discovered that simply 4.5% of the ladies who underwent the process described themselves as Hispanic and seven% recognized as Black.

Learn Extra: Girls Are Deciding To not Have Infants Due to the Pandemic. Why That’s Unhealthy for All of Us.

Pavna Brahma, a health care provider on the Shady Grove clinic in Atlanta, theorizes that this can be the growth interval earlier than a bust. “Persons are coming in who’re nervous about shedding their job or their protection or their insurance coverage,” Brahma says. “They need to reap the benefits of the second once they know they’ve protection and financial stability of their job.”

She stresses to her sufferers that ready till they obtain the vaccine to freeze their eggs is a viable choice: “Two to 6 months not often makes an enormous change of their fertility. I don’t need ladies to really feel pressured by the pandemic.”

Bryn Woznicki, who lives in Los Angeles, decided to dedicate the money she had saved for a move to New York City to freezing her eggs last year

Bryn Woznicki, who lives in Los Angeles, determined to dedicate the cash she had saved for a transfer to New York Metropolis to freezing her eggs final yr

Courtesy of Bryn Woznicki.

Nonetheless, pandemic or not, time stays a key driver in ladies’s family-planning choices. As a common rule, the youthful you might be, the extra eggs you’ve got, and the extra doubtless an egg-freezing course of can be profitable. Many ladies concern the benchmark of 35 years outdated. Lack of eggs and dangers to being pregnant occur step by step over time, not abruptly, however 35 is when docs start calling pregnancies “geriatric” to mirror elevated dangers. It’s additionally the age at which fertility docs will advise freezing extra eggs, typically by means of a number of procedures to reap as many eggs as attainable and enhance the probabilities that one could be fertilized later.

Bryn Woznicki, a 33-year-old filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles, has all the time identified she needs to be a mom, “however yearly,” she says, “it’s a ticking time bomb working in opposition to your organic clock.” When filming work dried up final spring and courting grew to become harder, she took inventory of what turning 34 throughout a pandemic may imply. “Say I met somebody as we speak,” she says. “Say I actually preferred them and we acquired married. By the point I did that and loved my accomplice and we determined to tackle this big duty of getting youngsters, that’s one other few years down the road.”

Together with her work and social life on pause, she determined to divert a few of her financial savings in direction of a possible future household. “I had some cash saved to attempt to transfer to New York this fall after which, you understand, COVID occurred,” she says. “In the meantime I used to be feeling the stress from my biology telling me that point was operating out, and I used to be like that is the one factor I can management in an unpredictable yr.”

For Arenberg, with the ability to freeze her eggs was a “silver lining” of the pandemic. “As unlucky as it’s that I’m technically unemployed, this actually gave me the psychological capability to look forward for the primary time,” she says. “I don’t know if I would like youngsters, however perhaps if I meet the suitable individual some day, this simply supplied a pleasant consolation degree the place I could make some choices about courting and children and work when issues get again to regular.”

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

Supply: time.com