In my 20’s, I never had an aching desire to get married and have children. I never felt rushed. There were too many things I wanted to do and experience first. The two major goals I had at that time were getting an education and traveling the world, and I was very successful at accomplishing my goals. I completed law school at age 26, worked as an attorney and spent a lot of time traveling the world with friends. I was fulfilled with my life as it was and remained focused in my career. Before I knew it, though, I was in my 30’s. Although I was still having a great time working and traveling, several serious relationships I had along the way never resulted in marriage. I began having conversations with many of my friends that were in the same situation as I was in, but it seemed they were not interested in or worried about having children. However, that wasn’t me. I knew that I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to have children, and I thought about it often, but I still felt I had plenty of time. Also, I wasn’t really set on having my own biological children. If I did that would be great, but I felt like there were so many children in the world without homes that I was open to the idea of adopting.
As I approached my mid-30s, conversations with my friends became more and more about the risks and difficulties of having children after the age of 35. Suddenly something clicked and my age became real and unavoidable. The desire that had always been a bit lacking finally kicked in, and I knew that I wanted to have children of my own. While I still liked the idea of adopting, more than anything I wanted to have my own biological children. The only problem is that being married first was very important to me, and I was still single and without anyone special in my life. It was at this point that I learned about egg cryopreservation, or egg freezing.
When I was 33, I decided to take that first step and made an appointment to discuss the possibility of freezing my eggs. The first doctor I visited told me the odds of success for egg freezing alone were very low and that my best shot would be to fertilize my eggs first then freeze the embryo(s). Since I was not seriously dating anyone at that time, fertilizing my eggs with an unknown sperm donor or even a known donor was not of interest to me. I decided at that time to put everything on hold and another three years went by. Finally, I found out that a close friend of mine, who is also a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, was going through in vitro fertilization, or IVF. She educated me about the process of IVF and the difficulties she and here husband were having undergoing this process at age 40. She explained to me that the technology for egg cryopreservation had come a long way, and it was now considered a viable option for women in my similar situation. She strongly encouraged me to take the plunge and freeze my eggs.
Once I started talking about it and researching the process again, I discovered that women all around me had already gone through this process. A girlfriend of mine who was diagnosed with cancer at a young age chose to freeze her eggs before starting chemotherapy. Several women at a group dinner I attended also spoke openly about freezing their eggs either because they were unmarried or married at a late age and egg cryopreservation presented the best chance for them to have children and minimize the risks that are associated with pregnancies that result from eggs that are fertilized after the age of 35.
I met with a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist, or REI, to get more information and start the process of egg cryopreservation. I found out so many things that I didn’t know before. It was explained to me that during each monthly cycle, a woman’s ovaries may have between 10 – 40 ovarian follicles (each follicle potentially containing an egg), but only one follicle grows to maturity and releases an egg during the process of ovulation. The other eggs are degraded by the body and essentially wasted. The process of egg cryopreservation starts with taking fertility medication in order to stimulate the production of multiple ovarian follicles in the hopes that more than one will grow to maturity and produce an egg. In this case, there is a possibility that multiple eggs can be extracted and frozen. Although the process did sound intimidating and complex, I knew it was what I wanted. I had multiple ultrasounds and blood draws done to monitor the process, while I gave myself fertility shots to stimulate the growth of my follicles. The final procedure was a twenty-minute surgery to extract and freeze the mature eggs. Overall, the process was pretty seamless for me. I didn’t experience much physical discomfort, and I was able to work throughout.
I plan to undergo this process two more times in order to freeze a large number of eggs and increase the likelihood of successful fertilization and implantation once I decide to become pregnant. I am extremely happy that I chose to pursue egg cryopreservation. Although I don’t know when I will find the person I’m going to marry, I consider this is an insurance policy so I have enough healthy eggs preserved when I do find that special someone and we are ready to have children.