I’ve always wanted to be a mum, but I know I’m not yet ready. So, two years ago, aged 33, I spent £5,000 to successfully freeze 16 eggs.
Social egg freezing, which is when you do it for non-medical reasons, was something I’d been considering for years – since my late twenties – because I hadn’t met anybody yet and I was worried I wouldn’t do so in time.
Sitting on the London Underground, staring up at the adverts, one for egg freezing caught my eye. Curiosity piqued, I researched my options. Cost was a major issue.
One option was to donate half of any eggs collected, so that I could then freeze the other half for me for free (though I still had to pay for a fertility test, yearly storage costs and any future treatment). But I wasn’t sure if I would regret that in the long-term, which made me think I should start saving up instead.
I also wasn’t just thinking about when my peak fertility was; I was aware of the 10-year storage limit for eggs that were frozen for non-medical reasons.
I knew that if I froze my eggs at 28 I would have to be ready to use them before I turned 38, or they would be destroyed. But would I be ready before I was 38?
It takes time to meet someone you love and want to have a family with, and who wants to have a family with you. There are so many other factors to consider too, like job, finances, and home.
In the end, the fear of freezing my eggs only to have them destroyed made my mind up; I might be gambling with my fertility, but the threat of the 10-year limit put me off freezing my eggs in my twenties (my peak fertility). I did think, though, about considering it again in a few years’ time.
And I did. At 33, I felt that getting all my ducks in a row (partner, home, career etc) in the next 10 years would be possible. But, once I did decide to go ahead with the process, it was far from straightforward. Costs proved impossible to predict – estimates ran from £5,000 to £50,000.
I finally began treatment over Easter 2018. At the same time each day for 10 days (though it can be longer), I injected myself in the stomach with a drug that stimulated my ovaries to mature multiple eggs, and every few days I had a scan at the clinic to check the size and the quality of my egg follicles.
It was fascinating and exciting to see them growing, though the bigger they got, the more uncomfortable I became. When ready, I had a trigger injection, which induces ovulation and the next day I attended the clinic for egg collection under sedation.
My memories of the day are hazy. All I know is I left the clinic with a slip of paper telling me how many eggs had been collected and a number to call in case of emergencies. I pay £280 a year to keep them frozen but I feel there’s been little aftercare or follow up.
Patients should be able to take away much more detailed information, receive better patient support beyond an emergency number, and have clarification post-freezing about the status and location of stored eggs.
I have not had any contact from the clinic since I froze mine other than another storage invoice, which has left me feeling anxious and worried.
I hoped egg freezing would buy me time and free me from the stress of my ticking biological clock but I continued to worry about the 10-year storage limit. Clinic staff had tried to reassure me by saying the law would probably change before I was affected, but I don’t think it will unless we take action to make that happen. I have eight more years left and am worried that that won’t be enough time.
That’s why I am the face of #ExtendTheLimit, the campaign by fertility charity Progress Educational Trust (PET) to extend the 10-year storage limit for social egg freezing. PET believes there is no need for time restrictions, though clinics should check on a regular basis that clients wish to continue storing their eggs.
I believe the current law damages women’s chances of becoming biological mothers and is outdated because egg freezing technology has improved dramatically in the last decade.
To date, nearly 1,000 people have signed the online petition to change the law.
Signing sends a very strong message to the Government that this is an issue that needs addressing now – egg freezing is the fastest growing reproductive technology in the UK.
Right now, the 10-year storage limit means hundreds of women are facing the stark choice of having to destroy their eggs and perhaps their best chance of becoming a biological mother, but in a few years’ time I imagine that will be thousands.
I am not planning on becoming a mum in the next few years and do not want now to have to face the pressure of a looming expiry date on my frozen eggs, as well as the ticking of the biological clock.
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