The Reality Of Freezing Your Eggs
Recently tech companies Facebook and Apple added egg freezing to the list of health benefits available to their employees, and with TV shows like New Girl and Being Mary Jane also bringing it to our attention, an increasing number of women are signing up blindly. It’s 2015, what woman doesn’t want a shot at ‘having it all’?
The problem with this superwoman ideal is that it’s unrealistic. US Glamour writer Debora Spar spoke about how the principles of feminism have been interpreted into a “route to personal perfection” and how this attitude has led to the harsh judgement of others and ourselves when things don’t go as planned.
Women have always been expected to bear children, but this pressure to provide biological babies is exposing women to health risks, whilst drastically reducing their bank balance. Not to mention the psychological trauma that occurs in the cases where treatment is ineffective. Since egg freezing was licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ten years ago, 6,500 eggs have been stored in Britain and only 12 babies have been born, so the chances of disappointment are high.
So first of all let’s break down the procedure and the risks involved. After your initial consultation, you will experience a series of blood tests to test your fertility. Once approved, you will have to inject yourself with a potent dose of hormones twice a day for several weeks. Two weeks before the egg retrieval stage, you will be given medicine, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests to monitor the growth of your eggs.
Stage two occurs during your normal period of ovulation, which involves a 15-20min operation. During the procedure you will be put to sleep and the doctor will use fine needles to inject your ovaries and extract 10-15 eggs, which can cause cramping and bloating. In some cases a laparoscopy will be performed, where a small incision is made just below your navel to suction the eggs.
Two cycles of the first two stages are recommended for the best chances of conception, priced at £5,000 per cycle. Only cancer patients have the option of it being covered by the NHS. Stage three involves the process of ‘flash freezing’, legally your frozen eggs can be stored for up to ten years costing £200 a year. When you decide to go ahead with IVF to conceive a baby, the earlier ordeal of testing and self-administered hormone injections will resume to prepare your body for a baby.
The final stage occurs once your uterus has responded well to the hormones. Your eggs are then carefully thawed and injected with sperm through a procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), which is usually around £2,000. Multiple rounds of IVF treatment are sometimes necessary to produce a healthy embryo before it is inserted into your womb for your pregnancy to continue as normal.
As with any medical procedure, there are possible complications. The biggest risk is Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which can cause a number of unpleasant side effects and in severe cases, death. 1 in 3 women will develop OHSS during the process of hormone injections, but a new British technique known as ‘Agonist Triggering’ lessens the risk. Doctors recommend freezing your eggs as early as possible for better results, as the chances of conception drop to 10% by the age of 40.
On the brighter side, freezing your eggs can feel empowering and take the edge off motherhood, as it buys you more time to get your life together. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, research shows that planned pregnancies normally make for an easier transition into parenthood. Despite perhaps outdated notions that the traditional nuclear family is best, single mothers can offer less conflict caused by incompatible two-parent households. Not all solo parents are a result of poor lifestyle choices.
But ladies if you are going to go the independent mother route; please don’t resort to stealing your man’s sperm or skipping contraception without him knowing, it never ends well. Sperm thief Liz Jones told the Daily Mail – “I thought it was my right, given that he was living with me and I had bought him many, many M&S ready meals” – but admitted that she was not thinking about his “reasonable desire to be allowed to grow up himself first.” Forcing fatherhood will not make him love you back; and it’s unfair to take advantage of the fact that the law requires him to then pay child support. He has a right to a future too.
Motherhood is a beautiful experience, whether you become a mum naturally, through IVF or adoption. Women CAN have it all, but the definition of what ‘all’ means depends on your expectations. Life is a marathon not a race, so don’t put yourself at risk caving from the pressure. Live life at your own pace and if you decide that freezing your eggs is the best option for you, then I wish you all the luck in the world.