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A small, pink ceramic piggy bank is nestled in the middle of a woven basket full of golden eggs.

After spending her 20s as an aid worker in Africa and India, Helena moved to the Bay Area in 2012, when she was 31. She wanted to apply her public health background to the startup world, so she worked for one health-tech company and then another. She quickly adjusted to life in the city and formed a group of single female friends whose ambitions closely matched her own. To Helena, these young women epitomized the freedom and boundless potential of Silicon Valley: They had worked hard, mapped out paths to promotions, and risen in their fields. They lived as mistresses of their own destinies.

But as their early 30s melted into their mid-30s, a question loomed like storm clouds on the horizon: How and when would any of them have children? Helena (who asked that her last name not be used) and her friends began discussing the option of egg freezing. A consensus soon formed: It was insurance for your future. It let you take your time and find the perfect partner. It would buy you more years to advance...