The first time my gynecologist casually asked me if I was planning on having children feels like just yesterday. I was in my early 30s and she had been my doctor for quite some time. Of course, I was single, dating and very much wanted to get married and start a family. At the time, I was teaching yoga and acting and had never even considered having a baby “on my own.” I didn’t fault her for asking and I understood her point, but I also remember the wave of anxiety that came with that innocent question and a lingering feeling that stayed with me for years to come. In that visit, she didn’t mention anything about frozen eggs. If she had, I probably would have gone into a full-blown panic. In hindsight, though, I do wish I knew then what I know now about egg freezing.
A few years later, I reconnected with an old friend on Facebook. We got together for lunch and it turned out that she worked for a fertility clinic. By then, I was 41 and she was 42, and she told me that she had done egg freezing a few years before as a precaution. She asked me if I wanted information about it and strongly encouraged me to consider. I had just started dating my (now) husband. I also didn’t have the financial resources for egg freezing, or fertility preservation. For some reason, I wasn’t too worried. I was healthy, fit and always looked and felt young for my age. Later, when I was in the throws of my IVF journey, I found out by my fertility specialist that it is not recommended to freeze your eggs when you’re 41, so I never looked back on that conversation with regret.
After we got engaged, my gynecologist encouraged us to start trying even before we got married. I was 43. My blood tests all looked good. I didn’t think for a second that we would have any trouble. But by the time we got back from our honeymoon, we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist and that was the beginning of a long fertility journey that didn’t end with our desired outcome.
I encourage you to become informed about your fertility and egg freezing options so you can self-advocate.
So why am I sharing my story? I would never want to make anyone feel scared or pressured. The cost to undergo egg freezing and embryo freezing is not cheap, you actually need to do it on the earlier side of things to make it more effective. Age is the best way to improve egg quality. Since we can’t reverse our age, it’s best to consider egg freezing early to avoid poor egg quality and better success rates later on.
I am a woman who persisted with five years of reproductive medicine treatment. I am now a fertility coach that works with women of all ages going through IVF (vitro fertilization) disappointed by the number of eggs in my ovarian reserve and egg retrievals and I want to share some insights and observations that I have made over the years.
Improving Egg Quality
As much as we might resent Mother Nature for our biological clocks and fertility declines, and the funny joke she played by making it different for women and men, there is a reality that cannot be denied. Your ovarian function and fertility decline is a real things. No matter how healthy, fit, youthful and modern you are, egg quality and egg quantity are correlated to your chronological age. Your eggs start to mutate and become chromosomal abnormal as you age and the science quotes this happening around mid-late 30’s. Are there women who get pregnant naturally over forty with their own eggs? Yes, of course! But that is the outlier. Are there celebrities who are older women posting about their miracle pregnancies at 44 and 45 years old that are not telling you that they used an egg donor, or that they spent endless amounts of time at their fertility centers? YES, there are! Are there younger women who go through a number of different fertility treatments, fertility drugs, endometriosis, hormone injections, retrieval procedures and never end up with a success rate? Yes, unfortunately.
The best part about assisted reproductive technology is that it is a rapidly advancing field and science is improving for egg freezing. It used to be that the egg freezing process was less of a guarantee than freezing embryos for future success. However, now the processes are considered almost equal. In fact, the egg freezing process is called vitrification. It is when women’s eggs are frozen in a liquid nitrogen and it has vastly improved the success rates of egg thawing and survival. There is also another method called oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing and it involves harvesting a woman’s eggs and freezing them so she can attempt pregnancy at a later date. The procedure and storage cost will continue to get more affordable and more companies and insurance policies are looking to include egg-freezing benefits.
Not just as a fertility coach, but as a real woman who wishes she could tell this to her younger self, I encourage you to become informed about your fertility, and egg freezing options, at a younger age. This will enable you to self-advocate properly, armed with the data and resources you need. It’s not for everybody.
The information provided above is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for medical care.