When I was younger I always thought I would be married by 23 and have children by 25. Let’s all laugh together…
But in all seriousness, it is not new news that women are putting their careers and life ahead of motherhood. Whether this is excelling in the corporate world, exploring the planet, or simply spending time with other non-parent friends. Still, our biology is not changing. Sadly (for me) a women’s peak fertility is around the age of 23.
Whilst our mothers and their mothers married much younger than our generation, they were typically confined to the home and expected to raise a family from the word go. Back in 1975, the average age women had their first child was 26 years. Today, as royally demonstrated by the Duchess of Cambridge who gave birth to her first child, Prince George, aged 31, the average age is now much higher.
This leads me on to Egg Freezing. A phenomenon well known to ‘millennials’ but still the new kid on the block with regards to fertility and family planning. Egg freezing (officially known as ‘human oocyte cryopreservation’) is a procedure that preserves woman's eggs so that, in the future, said woman can choose to have her eggs thawed, fertilised, and implanted into her womb to facilitate a pregnancy.
As with all of medicine and its exponential advancements, we are constantly raising ethical questions about how we manage our bodies—and fertility is no different. Egg freezing can be seen as manipulation of nature, immoral and wrong. Yet, there are many reasons people chose to freeze their eggs. For example, people with certain medical conditions or who need treatment that affects fertility (including chemotherapy for cancer). Equally, others who are at risk of injury or death, such as being part of the Armed Forces and deployed to a war zone, may want to freeze their eggs. Those having a sex change operation may also want to preserve fertility.
The category I fall into, like many, is that of “elective egg freezing.” I am one of the many women worried about declining fertility but not ready to have a child and have definitely not found the right partner…
Large companies like Apple, Facebook and Google offer this service as a perk to retain their female talent, something that has caused a lot of controversy. Some say it is a thoughtful and generous gesture, whilst others worry it encourages staff to choose career before family. It is no wonder that egg freezing in such a trend among hopeful future mothers. Hailed as “the new 30th birthday present for British women,” it allows those with medical or social reasons to delay starting a family.
Is this ‘insurance policy’ offering false hope, or are we lucky to be moving with science and technology?
Freezing our young healthy eggs, allows us to wait until we’re ready to bring up a child, before we get pregnant. Allowing a say in the timing of conception takes away the urgency for me to find a man for procreation reasons only, meaning I can concentrate on other areas in life first. This is empowering, by offering fertility options and encouraging deeper thought into starting a family.
Choice - that is what equality is all about right?
But on the flip side (and not trying to be cynical) the stats just do not work in our favour. Only 60 babies have been born in the UK from frozen eggs since 2001, with the success rate of 14% in 2013. We need to be fully aware that freezing our eggs at 30 does not guarantee a child at 40. Equally, the process of stimulating eggs, retrieving them, and IVF is not to be under-estimated, brining with it physical and emotional turmoil. I was recently told “the best chance of a successful pregnancy is to conceive naturally during your peak fertile years.” Fantastic, that’s just really helpful... I am far past my 23 year peak, that's for sure.
I accept that children are coming into my life a lot later than my mothers or grandmothers lives. A shift underpinned by social and cultural changes. I am more than happy to work, adventure, socialise, and quite frankly, be selfish for a while longer before welcoming the pitter-patter of tiny feet. Similarly, I’m conscious of my body clock, and one day want to have a family to call my own and watch flourish while I am still healthy. I have no qualms in freezing my eggs to take the pressure off, but believe that being fully aware of the risks and success rates is paramount. It’s no simple fix, and the success rates can be very low. So go into the procedure with your eyes open and get expert advice.
Anything that improves choice, empowers, and takes the burden off having a family when it is not right is positive in my eyes. The scientific technology is only getting better.
Egg freezing is a gift we should embrace, but need to do so carefully and wisely.
What is the average time it takes to freeze your eggs?
How much does it cost?
The average cost is £2,500- £5,000 with storage costs of £150-£400 per year.
How successful is it?
In 2013, the birth rate of frozen eggs in the UK was 14%, and much lower in women aged over 38.
Since 2001, only 60 babies have been born from frozen eggs in the UK.
How long can I store my eggs for?
Typically, 10 years, but it can be for up to 55 years in certain circumstances.