Freezing your eggs can sound like a mightly appealing option if you're looking to preserve your fertility, are still waiting for Mr. Right to show up, or you simply don't feel quite ready to have kids just yet. However, the pricey procedure offers no guarantees that you'll end up with a baby one day. In fact, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) doesn't recommend freezing your eggs for the sole purpose of postponing pregnancy, stating that there's still not enough research that it's actually effective for this.
Thinking about it doing it anyway? For many women, freezing their eggs offers them peace of mind and takes away some of the pressures associated with a ticking biological clock. We talked to three women who froze their eggs to find out what it was like physically, emotionally, and financially.
"I Broke Up with the Man I Thought I'd Marry"
Alice Mann, 39, who lives in England, froze her eggs four years ago when she and her serious boyfriend broke up.
“I was 35,” she says. “I’d split up with the boyfriend that I thought I was going to marry and have children with.” She says she wasn’t prepared to have a child on her own at that stage, so egg freezing felt like a proactive—and positive—thing to do.
“Rather than seeing every date as a potential father to my children or going out and having unprotected sex with strangers in the hopes of getting pregnant, egg freezing offered me a possibility for a bit of breathing space,” says Alice, who blogs about fertility at eggedonblog.com. “Like an insurance policy.”
She went through three cycles, and now she's just waiting to use her eggs until the time is right.
“I had hoped to meet someone,” says Alice, “and either not need to use them and fall pregnant naturally, or use them with a partner. But I’m still single, so I’m now in a situation where I’m considering using them with donor sperm and going down the road of trying to become a solo mother.”
"Rather than seeing every date as a potential father to my children, egg freezing offered me a possibility for a bit of breathing space.:
Alice currently has 14 eggs frozen, and has spent a little more than $15,000. However, Alice warns that this type of fertility preservation is best done when a woman is younger. “The younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the better quality eggs you freeze and the greater likelihood of success,” she says. Yet, the cost of the procedure can make this diffiucult. "I still don't feel the procedure is developed enough for women in their twenties to feel that they should be freezing their eggs as a matter of course. It's expensive, it's invasive, it carries risks, and no guarantees.”
According to the ASRM, the number and quality of a woman’s eggs decreases from the time she is born until the time she reaches menopause, and the decline accelerates quickly once a woman is in her mid-thirties.
"I Wanted to Take Some Pressure Off Myself"
Jenny Hayes, 41, who lives in Connecticut, froze her eggs six years ago right, after her 35th birthday.
“I lived in Colorado for 10 years and was busy with my career,” she says. “I did not have time to find a date, let alone a partner slash husband slash potential father in my life.”
But for her, the egg freezing was just one part of a bigger picture change, when she closed the restaurants she owned to move back to the east coast to be closer to her family.
“I wanted to press the reset button on my life,” says Jenny. “I literally was a workaholic and had no time for anything. But for whatever reason, in my gut, I just felt like egg freezing was the right thing for me to do. I wasn't panicking, thinking, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. I'm never going to have kids.’ But it was more this unconscious pressure in the back of my mind saying that time was ticking.”
She was also mindful, like Alice, of how odd it would be to go on dates and bring her child-bearing pressures to the table. “A lot of women want to move on with this portion of their lives to create a family,” she says, “and that's really, really important for a lot of people. What’s unfortunate is when the biological clock trumps your decision-making process. For me, finding the right relationship was more important than checking off the box of having a kid.”
"In my gut, I just felt like egg freezing was the right thing for me to do."
Once she made the decision to go through with it, though, she had to come up with a way to pay for it.
“It's so expensive, and it’s not like I was rolling in the dough,” says Jenny. “I do not take it lightly how expensive it is,” she says, “and whether or not this was money that I could justify spending.”
There are no certainties that the expense will pay off down the road. And no fertility doctor can perfectly predict how easy it will be to implant fertilized eggs in your uterus.
“I am very aware of the odds,” says Jenny. “I'm aware of the statistics. It is not a sure thing that I will get pregnant. I understand what it means to get pregnant at an older age and I appreciate all those risks, concerns, and statistics. But for me, the odds were good enough that it was a nice little backup plan. I could take a little pressure off myself and not be anxious about meeting the right person.”
That's why she encourages women to do it, if they can afford it.
“Knowing I've done this and knowing I have these few little eggs available to me has literally reduced my anxiety,” says Jenny. “It's been an amazing way to just be in the moment, stay calm, and let life take its course and not try to control everything.”
"I Didn't Want to Be a Single Mom"
When Brigitte Adams (now 43) was 37, divorced, and living in Los Angeles, she saw her friends going through fertility treatments and having a hard time with it.
“That shook me physically to get going, to do this,” she says. “As soon as I started looking into it—and I think this is common among a lot of women—I had no idea that my egg quality was so directly related to my age. I worked out. I ate right. But by the time I looked into it, my ovarian reserve was diminished and the doctor told me if I was going to do it, I should start right away.”
So the summer she turned 39, Brigitte began the process, eventually freezing 11 eggs. But she did so with the caveat that she would not be a single mom. She pictured herself with a traditional family unit.
“I didn’t want to use my eggs after 42,” she says of her original cut-off age. But now she’s rethinking that.
"Hopefully I'll be able to have love at some point later when I'm older, but right now my body is at a point where it's now or never."
“Something sort of clicked this summer, and I'm realizing that I'm waiting for this man to waltz into my life to use my eggs,” she says. “The chances of that happening are sort of slim to none right now. Hopefully, I'll be able to have love at some point later when I'm older, but right now my body is at a point where it's now or never.”
Recently, Brigitte went to a fertility clinic to discuss her options. Her doctor told her she’d need to have surgery to remove fibroids before she’d be able to implant an embryo in her uterus. Now, she tells people who are considering freezing their eggs to undergo tests to make sure implantation will be smooth before going through with the initial procedure.
She also encourages young women to understand their own fertility. She wishes her ob-gyn had had more conversations with her about fertility, instead of just pregnancy prevention.
“When I finally froze my eggs it was like a sigh of relief,” says Brigitte. “I felt empowered. Like, ‘I've done everything I can.’ I know it's not a sure thing, but I'm going to avail myself of this, and if it works out, great. What it did for me was actually gave me some time to realize, ‘OK, I am in a position to become a single mom.’ I just wish I’d done it earlier.”