To Melbourne-based HR manager Emily, the 20 eggs she has safely stored are an insurance policy against regret. But there was plenty about the process of retrieving them she didn’t see coming...
Like most people, I’d heard stories of single women banking their eggs, but it wasn’t until January of this year when I was having drinks with my girlfriends that it came up in conversation and I started giving it serious thought. I really made the most of my 20s, working in a job I love, travelling, socialising, and I even lived in London for a few years, which was the best thing I ever did. I’d had short relationships before, but never anything long-term – I did what I wanted to do and wasn’t tied down. But my family, who run a farm in regional Victoria, are the most important thing in the world to me and I knew that one day I’d want one of my own.
After the seed was planted for me during that conversation over wine, I started researching egg freezing, listened to podcasts, and booked free consultations with several clinics for comparison. By May, I knew I was going to take the plunge before I turned 31. The clinic I went with retrieved 26 eggs, and were able to freeze 20, which I was thrilled about. It would be nice to have a partner in the next few years, and to start having conversations about children, and I’m comforted to know that if we had issues conceiving, I’ve given us the best chance of having a child by freezing my eggs. Since then, I’ve also started thinking that if I don’t meet someone, I can just use the eggs and have a baby by myself. I never dreamed I’d consider this, but I’ve surprised myself a lot through this process. Here are 9 more things that surprised me during my egg freezing journey.
1. When it comes to finding the right clinic, most expensive doesn’t always mean better results.
I did a lot of research around clinics – reading reviews online and in social media groups – before I went for consultations and learned there’s no uniform price. Egg freezing isn’t cheap, so I was intrigued to know why costs differed so much. In the end I went with a place that was most affordable not because of the price, but because I was really comfortable with its reputation and felt comfortable that they offered equivalent services.
2. A good clinic’s hope is that you never have to use the eggs.
But knowing I have a backup plan is incredibly comforting. I have two friends going through IVF right now, so I know the challenges so many women face. And even if I never need to use my frozen eggs, who knows – maybe one day I could donate them to someone else who does.
3. There’s more valuable support on social media that you might think.
I joined an international Facebook group when I was considering egg freezing that was an amazing source of info. There are some great Instagram accounts out there, too. I’d really encourage anyone considering freezing their eggs to read stories of other women’s experiences.
“ There’s so much encouragement – and rightly so – for women our age to be working hard for our careers, but then at the same time we’re the ones who have to have children, so where do we fit it all in? ”
4. The first needle is scarier mentally than physically.
The idea of stabbing yourself with a needle is quite full-on, but friends who’d been through IVF told me that once you get past the first one, things get easier, which was true. If you can have someone else there to support you, that helps. I was in Covid lockdown for mine, but my best friend supported me on FaceTime for the first few shots.
5. The days before egg retrieval are quite an insight into being pregnant.
The injections go for 10-14 days, and by the end of it, I was worried I’d been impregnated because I was so bloated and sore. I wasn’t prepared for how uncomfortable I felt, waddling around like I was pregnant. And I couldn’t stop eating – all I wanted was processed carbs.
6. It’s worth erring on the side of caution when it comes to time off work.
It was probably a blessing in disguise that I was working from home [in Covid lockdown] during the 14-days before collection. I had four blood tests and three ultrasounds, so it helped that I could do that without it being a big deal at work. Exactly 36 hours before your collection procedure you have a trigger injection, which made me feel really tired and a bit unwell. Some clinics say you only need to take the day of your procedure off, but I’d definitely recommend taking the day before and two or three after.
7. Don’t expect everyone to understand or fully support your decision.
I really encourage women to talk about their egg freezing journey with their friends, and I specify girlfriends because our mothers’ generation may not be as open to it. I told quite a few of my friends, especially my single ones because I want it to be a topic that’s not taboo, but I have to say, when I told my mum about it, her reaction was very different. I put it down to a generational thing, [the notion that] those things aren’t really talked about, or that you should be married by 31 instead.
8. Cut yourself some slack if you feel yourself getting angry, too.
There’s so much encouragement – and rightly so – for women our age to be working hard for our careers, but then at the same time we’re the ones who have to have children, so where do we fit it all in? I didn’t expect the feelings of frustration and anger about the unfairness of it all to come up, but they did. Why are women the ones who have to think about this process, go through it, and pay for it? Men just get to turn up later. This is again where speaking to girlfriends and support groups, even your clinic, really helps.
9. That the ideal time to do it is in your late 20s or early 30s.
I’m kind of kicking myself I didn’t do it sooner, because I’ve heard countless times now that the earlier you store eggs, the better their health. I wish this was something that was talked about more in schools and universities when it’s closer to the ideal age. I’d love to see the government rebate it a little, too. But despite the cost, I’m so relieved and proud of myself that I’ve done it and really encourage other women to consider it for themselves.
Thinking about freezing your eggs? Genea Fertility can help. Visit genea.com.au to find out more.