Eggs on ice
You might have a top-shelf full of anti-aging products, but when it comes to fertility, it's time to talk about egg-freezing.
Dr Raelia Lew on Egg Freezing
At a glance
● A woman is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have, and with age they decrease in quality and quantity
● At 35 a woman’s fertility starts to significantly decline, but this process actually starts much earlier in life
● Egg freezing is the process of storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs to increase her chances of conceiving at a later date
While we often hear celebrity success stories of women having babies later in life, our chance of conceiving naturally decreases as we get older, with 35 the tipping point when it comes to fertility decline. “It’s a much more important number now than it was 30 years ago…” explains Melbourne-based gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Raelia Lew “…because the average age we’re having children is 32.”
That means many of us are waiting even longer, so it’s worth knowing what your chances of falling pregnant naturally are each month:
● Early to mid-twenties: 25 per cent chance each month
● Age 30: 20 per cent chance each month
● Age 40: Around five per cent chance each month
And with age being the biggest factor affecting a woman’s fertility (by age 40 it’s fallen by more than half), Dr Lew would like to see more women being proactive in their approach to exploring assisted reproductive technologies like egg-freezing well before their fertility undergoes a significant decline.
“Most people aren’t thinking about babies in their early twenties,” she acknowledges. “But if women start considering a proactive strategy to give them extra options, then freezing eggs is like a fertility insurance policy.”
Sexologist and relationship expert Dr Nikki Goldstein strategically did just that – when she was 29.
Knowing she wanted a child but having a great time dating, Nikki was adamant that she didn’t want to ‘partner up’ purely for the sake of having a child. But she also knew the statistics when it came to fertility and wanted to do something to increase her chances of being a mother in the future. “A lot of people gave me a hard time about my age, telling me I was too young,” she recalls. “But after hearing some of the statistics – and becoming aware of the struggles those around me were having – I felt like 29 was the perfect age.”
Nikki admits the journey to collect and freeze her eggs was emotionally taxing, but knowing her future self might benefit gave her the strength to press on. “No matter what I was going through, it was something I could look back on and thank myself about – that I had those eggs in the freezer.”
With no regrets, Nikki is now encouraging others to think-ahead about their fertility too, however acknowledges there is a still a degree of shame and taboo around the topic. “When I started to talk to people about my journey, I realised there was a lot of misinformation out there,” she explains. “It’s so important to discuss it with friends who’ve been through the process and doctors who can advise on the right journey, so that you have as much information as possible.”
Egg freezing requires 10-12 days of self-administered hormonal stimulation via daily injections, followed by a 30 minute collection procedure (usually done under twilight anaesthetic) and then the freezing and storing of the eggs. Although far from an on-the-spot procedure, many single women just like Nikki find the peace of mind invaluable, with collected eggs often successfully stored for many years.
If you’d like to know more, join the conversation over on our Facebook page or touch base with your GP or fertility specialist.