To Freeze or Not to Freeze
“Have you thought about freezing your eggs, Michelle?” I’m 36 years old, and that question is coming at me a lot lately.
I do want children -- I've always envisioned being a mother -- so I know the people asking are only doing it out of care and concern. But, to be honest, the topic is starting to bug me.
It feels like someone asking another person about his or her weight. “Have you thought about your weight gain, So-and-So?”
To me, egg freezing is a private and really serious topic for women to think about; and more likely than not, a single woman over 35 has thought about it. How could she not, with friends and family members constantly looking at her with worried faces?
Again, I’m 36. I realize I’ve passed the golden fertility window and that my eggs are rapidly disappearing.
There is even a silly app you can download on smartphones called "The Wonder Clock" that allegedly calculates - and then counts down, second by second - when a woman will become infertile. How stressful is that?
But does that mean I need to run down immediately to get my eggs frozen? I’m not sure.
Never in a million years would I have thought at my age I’d be unmarried and “without child.” But that is the way it’s turned out. I don’t regret all the wonderful and exciting adventures I’ve embarked upon over the last several years, and I have loved with all my heart.
I just haven’t found the right person yet, and while I want to find him, I refuse to just pick someone for the sake of having a kid. On the other hand, if I meet him in the next few years (which I hope I do), as I understand it, my chances of getting pregnant naturally will continue to plummet by the minute.
The procedure called Oocyte cryopreservation -- or “social egg freezing”-- involves the extraction and freezing of a woman’s eggs. The eggs are then stored, and later thawed, fertilized, and implanted when the woman is ready to have a baby.
The process used to be reserved for women about to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. Now, more and more women my age are freezing eggs to buy time.
According to Dr. Richard Paulson, Director at USC Fertility in Los Angeles, a woman who freezes her eggs before the age of 35, and then uses that batch later on, has around a 65% chance of getting pregnant.
However, his best estimate for a woman to get pregnant, who freezes her eggs at 40 years old, drops to between 20 and 30%.
“The quality of a woman’s eggs decreases as she gets older,” Dr. Paulson said. He approximates 2000 babies have been born from frozen eggs worldwide.
“The number of births is low because a lot of women are freezing, but not a lot are coming back to use the eggs they froze,” Dr. Paulson said. He maintains the procedure is safe with no increased rate of birth defects in babies born from frozen eggs.
Critics on the other hand, like Dr. Roger Lobo with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, argue that successful egg freezing should still be considered experimental, “with insufficient data on usage and outcomes to assure patients that it’s a worthwhile undertaking.”
I’m researching and feeling pressured writing this. I feel like I don’t even have time to finish this article. I need to decide right now if I’m going to freeze my eggs, or move on. My biggest problem is not the cost (between $10,000 and $15,000); I could take all the cash out of my savings. It’s the “control” of the thing.
I make an effort every day to resist controlling things. I try hard in my life, but I also feel there is a natural order of events, and there is a reason why I haven’t had kids yet.
Isn’t egg freezing the ultimate controlling measure? Isn’t it me trying to control my fertility, and buy time that could be meant to be?
Again, I don’t think I’ve had kids yet, because it hasn’t been the right time for me. The argument coming at me is deafening, “But when you get around to it, Selfish Michelle, it will be too late.” I hear that loud and clear; I just still feel stuck.
A friend of mine saved her money and froze her eggs this year. She said the whole process took about a month, and although the hormones made her bloated and a bit emotional, it wasn’t a big deal at all.
She believes in her choice, and I support her 100%. Honestly, I feel in a decade from now, many twenty-something women will freeze their eggs without even thinking about it.
I want to carry my own baby, but I’m not sure if I will. That is a reality in my life, and it does not symbolize the end of the world for me. I recognize the risks of waiting any longer, and I’m so glad there is an option like egg freezing for women in my position.
I still believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Will I eat those words and regret not freezing my eggs tomorrow? Maybe.
Will I wait too long and be forced to adopt? That would be a blessing in my eyes, so I don’t feel weird about that either.
The answer is that, I have no answer. I don’t know what I’ll do. For now, I’ll just stay put and listen to your thoughts on this. It’s certainly something to ponder.
Michelle Kennedy is a writer and lecturer in the Multimedia Communications Department at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She lives in Sacramento and commutes to San Francisco once a week.