The enforced pause the pandemic put on dating and life in general has led to more women than ever wanting to freeze their eggs. This Cosmopolitan writer is one of them. In her three-part diary, she explains why, and what the process is really like for those (thinking of or) going through it.
Week 1: Why I’m freezing my eggs
The glass from the tiny glass vial shattered between my fingers. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. As I stood in my bedroom, syringe in one hand, ruined medication in the other, I paused for breath for the first time that day. How on earth did I get here?
If you’d have told 25-year-old me that a decade later, at the age of 35, she’d be trying to preserve her own fertility by injecting herself nightly with drugs from thimble-sized glass bottles, she would have chuckled in your face.
That is not how it was going to go for me, I’d have told you. By 35 I’d have at least one of the two children I knew I wanted. I’d also have a three-bedroom house with a small garden, a husband (obvs) and at least one pet. I’d be a journalist (well at least one thing remains true) and hubby dearest and I would be happily contemplating our next move. Maybe a bigger house. Another child. Who knows! The world was 25-year-old me’s oyster!
But as happens so often, the familiar tale I told myself turned into another all too familiar tale I ended up having to tell others: due to a car crash of a breakup (two car pile-up, no fatalities, a few life-changing injuries) aged 33, the life I so badly craved disappeared like an etch-a-sketch wiped clean.
It’s not that the one I have instead is horrible. Far from it. It’s full of love from friends and family, adventure, hilarity, intrigue and fulfilment from my work. I am beyond lucky, in the scheme of things, especially given the two years we’ve all just dragged ourselves through.
But as all the self-imposed timelines I put on things gradually fell by the wayside (you know the ones: the ‘I’ll freak out about my fertility when I get to 30. Ok 33. Ok no 35. Ok fuck it, 40 it is’), I had no choice but to pull my head out of the sand long enough to realise that no one was going to come along and fix my fertility anxiety for me. I had to fix it for myself.
That’s how I ended up on the website of The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy late one night in March 2021. It’s something I had considered before, whilst still in a relationship, when it was clear his and my timelines were very different. I thought it would take the pressure off us, and I would have been right, but I couldn’t bring myself to take the step. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had done it earlier. But hindsight is a cruel and dangerous thing.
Things were different now. The pandemic had put life on hold. Like so many, I felt entirely out of control, and this felt like one small way I could claw some of it back. I was not alone. After steadily rising throughout the pandemic, google searches for 'egg freezing' hit a five-year high this summer. The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy saw rates go up eight times compared with pre-pandemic.
For those uninitiated, egg freezing is a 9-15 day process, where a cocktail of drugs (self-administered injections twice a day in the morning and evening) are used to first stimulate a woman’s egg reserve, before the eggs are extracted under sedation. They are then frozen using vitrification.
“This new fast freezing method changes the water inside the egg into powder, which does not damage the egg. Therefore the survival rate after freezing and thawing is about 95%,” says Dr Amin Gorgy, when I went for my first appointment at his clinic.
They are then stored in liquid nitrogen until the point where you want to use them to get pregnant. It can cost between £4,000-£6,000 per cycle you do (and most women need at least two if not three cycles to get the number of eggs required). The drugs are around £500-£750 each cycle you do, and the cost of keeping the eggs frozen around £300-£600 a year.
It's tough to put an exact figure on how much egg freezing costs in total in the UK, as clinics all have wildly differing prices, but it's estimated that one round plus storage comes in at around £5,500 on average.
Women under 35 have a 16% chance of having a baby when five eggs are frozen, and for those over 35 there is a 6% chance. This increases to 50% with 20 eggs frozen, so someone my age might end up doing two or even three rounds of the process to get the optimum number of eggs.
Until this year, the physical and monetary cost of this process put me off. But suddenly the balance tipped, and I realised I was going into every date, every potential relationship carrying the weight of my fertility anxiety with me. How can you objectively appraise a man sitting in front of you when there’s a voice in your head screaming ‘YES BUT IS HE YOUR BABY DADDY? IS HE? ASK HIM’ at full blast.
I came to think of egg freezing as an insurance policy, one that would take a psychological load off me in the short term. It is a deeply personal decision, and one lots of my friends in similar positions have not taken. But for me, it was the right time to do it.
So that is how I ended up in my bedroom, about to no doubt royally fuck up my first injection. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking you through the process as I experience it, from starting the injections to having the eggs extracted – promising to detail the good and the bad along the way.
*Our writer received a reduction in the cost of egg freezing in exchange for writing an honest account of her experience
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