This article first appeared in Fairfax media July 2017
I was 29 when I froze my eggs. I was researching for my new book and interviewed a fertility specialist. The facts were laid out in front of me and it was like a revelation hit.
I realised that, even at my age and with the current technology, I may only have a 40 per cent chance that my eggs would survive to make a baby.
For me, it became about planning for an uncertain future. Freezing my eggs meant I’d have more options. Younger eggs are better and would give me a better chance of pregnancy in the future. I thought why not freeze my eggs now and then I won’t feel rushed. I didn’t want to be dating guys and thinking ‘is he the one’ because my biological clock was ticking. I didn’t want to feel pressured to settle down and end up with the wrong guy.
The process of freezing my eggs was very much the first part of IVF. I had to inject drugs to stimulate my follicles for egg growth and was scanned to see their success. The experience was fascinating and made me feel very connected with my fertility. I remember looking at the screen when I was being scanned and thinking ‘could that be my future children?’.
My doctor wanted me to be awake for my egg retrieval because she felt it would be interesting for me, and it was. I was given some drugs to help me relax and then was put in stirrups so the doctor could retrieve the eggs. Other than a bit of pressure during the retrieval, it was pain free. I got to watch the doctor draining each follicle on the screen and then watched the embryologist taking the test tube over to the incubator to check for eggs.
Unfortunately, I did react to the drugs afterwards and experienced a fair amount of pain. I was bloated and felt quite ill, and emotionally I was a bit of a state! I’ve only done one egg retrieval and have eight eggs frozen. No one can tell you what the ideal number of eggs is, but I’m considering doing it again. Ideally, I’d like to have a total of 12 eggs.
My partner is aware that I’ve had my eggs frozen and is supportive. It’s never been an issue or even a topic about him being on board. I did it before I met him and he thinks it’s a good idea.
Other people find it interesting and I got a lot of questions at the time about why I was doing it. Some of them were triggering for me. People asked if I would have a baby on my own. I’d never thought about that, but now that becomes more so of an option with the eggs in the freezer.
I think any negativity around egg freezing comes down to misunderstanding and ignorance. We’re healthier and look younger than ever before, but the one part of the woman that hasn’t changed since the Stone Age is the biological clock. This is where age is against us, and the reason why medical experts are telling us about freezing our eggs.
A lot of women don’t consider it and think ‘if I struggle, I can do IVF’, but even that’s not fool proof. Women who have a child in their late 20’s may not know whether they want a second child until much later, or even when they’re in another relationship potentially following a breakup. It’s that kind of uncertainty that women need to consider. At least having frozen eggs could help in these situations because they’re younger eggs.
I’d advise anyone considering egg freezing to find out all the information first. Look at the stats around it and make an educated decision. Talk to other women who’ve gone through it to get different perspectives, and make sure you have a supportive network around you to remind you why you’re doing it when emotions take hold.
Associate Professor Kate Stern, is a fertility specialist at Melbourne IVF. Here she tells us why more women are freezing their eggs.
There’s a growing awareness of the increasing fragility of fertility as we age. Each year we have more women coming to request egg freezing. Most of these are aged between 35-40.
Technology has advanced enormously. A few years ago, only 40-60 per cent of eggs would survive the freezing thawing. Now, approximately 90 per cent would survive. Pregnancy rates are almost the same as with ‘fresh’ eggs.
Some women do feel pressure to freeze their eggs, but most of the women do so because they’ve not found a partner or been in the situation to have a baby earlier.
Every young woman has the right to be well informed about future fertility. Once armed with accurate information, young women can consider all their options. But this isn’t for everyone.
It’s important to understand that egg freezing only offers a small additional opportunity for the future for most women. It’s not a guarantee of success.
If you're considering freezing your eggs or would like to do an AMh test to understand your ovarian reserve please contact our team on 1800 111 483.