Snap freeze your potential

genea egg freezingIncreasingly Australian women are seeing egg freezing as a smart choice in their early 30s rather than as a last resort. What might once have been whispered about or commented upon in a patronising way - “Wow, you’re 30 and single? Better freeze your eggs!” - is now more likely to be perceived as a proactive, prudent decision.

“Initially when I froze my eggs there was a bit of a negative social media reaction but in the 18 months since then it has become far less rare and now when I talk about it, it’s like ‘oh yeah, sure, why wouldn’t you do that?’,” says Juliette who froze her eggs in mid-2014 when she was 34.  She became a groundbreaker in the process by covering her own treatment for the Today Show in an effort to break down the stigma surrounding it.

Entrepreneur Jessa froze her eggs late in 2015 after months of consideration and has been similarly open about her decision.

“I think that more women would freeze their eggs if they knew more about it and how straightforward it is. One thing that stopped me doing it earlier was thinking of it as ‘last ditch’ thing to do. If you’re going to do it, earlier is better. I now just think of it as a positive insurance that I hopefully won't need.”

These two women are some of the many who are under no illusion that freezing their eggs will guarantee them a baby later in life but they argue convincingly for the benefits the treatment has bought to their lives now and hopefully into the future. A key issue that discussions about egg numbers and chances of success don’t address is that there is often an emotional boost gained from increasing your options on your own terms.


A life changing decision

“When I was 31, I was having breakfast with two school friends, one was married and pregnant with her second baby and the other one was about to get married. I’d had a really fun night the night before and I looked at both of them and thought I want what you have eventually but not now.”

Juliette explains that one of her friends talked about the AMH test (the Anti-Müllerian Hormone test measures a hormone secreted by cells in the follicles of an ovary and is often used to determine ovarian reserve – or numbers of eggs you have left). “So I thought I’d take the AMH test just to see where I stood.” The result was lower than expected and sent Juliette on a fact finding mission to figure out her next move.

“I’m quite a proactive, pragmatic person so I started from the bottom and researched because nobody I knew was talking about egg freezing at that point.” After speaking with three different Fertility Specialists at Genea, Juliette decided to go ahead with the treatment.

Jessa, 36, followed a different path to her decision.

“I always thought I would have children later in life and was always open to the idea of egg freezing but the message always seemed to be that it wasn’t a very viable option and not worth doing. I think that five or 10 years ago that might have been the case but the technology has improved now.”
When I looked into what was involved, it felt good to know where the technology is at, about what the options are and to consciously create options that made sense to me.”

However, Jessa still had hesitations, largely linked to concerns about the impact of the treatment.

“I was worried about it being intrusive and difficult – physically and hormonally. When I spoke to Genea it started to feel less scary and very doable. I was still nervous but the experience turned out to be so much easier than I thought.”


What’s involved?

Egg freezing is a method to preserve a woman’s fertility that’s relatively simple. In an egg freezing cycle, a woman undergoes hormone stimulation over a period of approximately 10 days to encourage a number of eggs to mature. She then undergoes an egg collection procedure which takes about 10-20 minutes.

The collected eggs are then frozen using an advanced method called vitrification - essentially snap freezing - and safely stored. Frozen eggs can be stored for many years.


Unexpected outcomes

Both Juliette and Jessa experienced an influx of somewhat unexpected calmness after their treatment.

Juliette says; “The morning after my second cycle I was ecstatic, it went really well. In every sense, I am a lot calmer now. I know that I have done everything that I can.”

Jessa wishes she could go back and talk to a younger version of herself. “As soon as I started the cycle I felt a huge sense of relief, which I hadn’t anticipated. The hormones didn’t have any adverse effects; actually they made me feel happy. Had I known what I know now about every step of the process, I would have skipped down to the clinic much earlier. I felt incredibly well supported by my family, friends and the team at Genea. I want other women to know it’s not a big deal and might help give them peace of mind.”


Insurance policy

One concern Fertility Specialists and critics alike have is that egg freezing is being sold as a panacea to single women. The reality is that having frozen eggs stored away will not guarantee a child in the future.

While we have been freezing and vitrifying eggs for many years in Australia, the number of women returning to use their frozen oocytes in an attempt to get pregnant is not yet at a level to provide reliable and meaningful data on the Australian experience.

However, data being used internationally indicates a chance of success ranging from 15 to 35 per cent depending on the number of eggs vitrified and the age at which you froze them*. In contrast, a 40 year old has just seven to eight per cent chance of getting pregnant naturally each month.

“I know some Fertility Specialists point out that freezing your eggs isn’t a guarantee, however, people experience fertility issues at a range of ages and there are not any guarantees in life. I feel it’s better to give yourself as many options as you can. I hope I never have to use my frozen eggs but I’m really happy to know they are there,” Jessa says. “I don’t think any woman sees it as a replacement for trying to find a relationship. Likewise, you don’t want to rush in to a relationship that may not be ideal out of fear of not having children.”

Through documenting her story, Juliette has said many times that she realizes she still may never become a mother with her own eggs but freezing her eggs means she has done everything she can to give herself the best chance. “I know doctors still have hesitations about it because you can’t guarantee a return but you can’t guarantee a return on a normal pregnancy either.”


Public perception

Juliette believes in another five to 10 years, egg freezing will be quite a normal activity. “I think the stigma has definitely come away these days. I like to think that maybe putting my story out into the public sphere has helped but I also think it is just that society is moving forward. In five years’ time I think we’re not going to be having as many discussions about this, I think it is just going to be a more normal course of life.”

* www.i-fertility.net

This article first appeared in Business Chicks' Latte Magazine.
 
Comments
Genea Team
Neha, thank you for your comment and we wish you well.

Regards,
Genea Team
14/10/2016 1:26:12 PM

Neha agarwal
I can understand the phase through which you have been it is really tough time and people around will talk about u which is quite depressing. I've have been in this situation which was tough period for me.I hope I never have to use my frozen eggs but I’m really happy for the experiment which i had performed.
29/09/2016 6:08:50 PM

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