Are you thinking about freezing your eggs? If you are then before you take any action, read this post. Finding yourself single in your late thirties when you’re desperate to have a baby is a flippin’ awful place to be. I know, I’ve been there.
The unfairness of it is overwhelming. As you watch all your friends get married and start popping out kids the ‘how did this happen to me?’ thoughts are impossible to suppress.
Knowing what to do for the best is next to impossible. People will give you dubious advice and amongst those ‘Why don’t you freeze your eggs?’ is right up there. Mid break-up this is the advice an ex-boyfriend gave me. I wanted to punch him in the face.
A year later I was pregnant after using donor sperm, so obviously I didn’t take his sage advice. And here’s why I don’t recommend other single women in their late go down that route either:
Your eggs are already past their best
By the time you’re in your mid-thirties not only is the number of eggs you have left declining but the quality of your eggs has already fallen off a cliff. Egg quality is THE most important factor in the success rate of IVF, and why the success rate of IVF with frozen eggs is far higher with donor eggs than a woman’s own eggs. Because donor eggs are always younger.
According to the Human Fertility and Embryology Association (HFEA) in 2016 only 18% of IVF treatments using a patient’s own frozen eggs were successful.
There’s some great information about egg quality on the website of Extend Fertility an American egg freezing service. Check out the graph on that page that shows the steep decline in egg quality from your mid-thirties onwards.
I saw an image similar to this when I was 37 and considering my options after breaking up with the annoying ‘freeze your eggs’ ex and it was sobering.
A recent HFEA press release in December 2018 stated: “Clinics have an ethical responsibility to be clear that egg freezing below the age of 35 offers women their best chance of creating their much longed for family.”
“Where women over the age of 40 are freezing their own eggs, the likelihood of a future pregnancy is very slim and we would caution against this being a sensible option for this group of women.”
In the light of this information spending a tonne of money to preserve sub-standard eggs suddenly seems like a waste of time and money. I have serious doubts about the ethics of clinics that are encouraging women in their late thirties, or older, to part with large amounts of money to freeze eggs.
If you’re in your 20s with youthful, high-quality eggs on board then freezing eggs might be a worthwhile back-up plan. If you have the cash for egg freezing in your 20s, that is!
But even then I’d argue that it would better to just get on with starting a family sooner rather than later. I wish I hadn’t, and I’ll be advising my daughter to consider having kids early. You can always build a career. Having a family, not so.
If you REALLY want a baby, go it alone
If you’ve hit your late thirties and Mr Right hasn’t shown up yet then you have two options. Keep waiting for your knight in shining armour to put in an appearance, or go it alone.
I knew I wanted to have my own child, and I knew I’d rather be a mother alone than never be a mother at all. And I wanted that too much to just leave it in the hands of fate.
But I know it’s not as clear cut for everyone. Still, even with those certainties, it took me some time to let go of ‘the dream’, accept that life hadn’t worked out the way I hoped and feel reading for a different path.
The danger is you get stuck. Stuck in limbo. Not wanting to be single and childless, but unable to move forward out of fear, uncertainty. Not able to let go of how you expected your life to turn out.
If this is where you are freezing your eggs will only keep you stuck here. Stopping you from facing up to the reality that maybe having a baby with a partner isn’t going to happen for you. And let’s face it by the time you hit your late thirties your fertile years are dwindling fast.
I have friends who’ve agonised over the decision for far longer than I did.
My advice is to take action. That doesn’t mean taking the leap into single motherhood without a backward glance. But the worst case scenario is that you never get out of limbo, put too much faith in frozen eggs as insurance.
Let’s get real here. There is NEVER a good time to have a baby. Partnered or not. There will always be doubts and misgivings, questions and risks. If you wait for all the planets to align you’ll find you’re still waiting long after your ovaries have dried up and given up on you.
Knowledge is power, take control
Decide to take positive action to get yourself out of limbo. It might feel like deciding to freeze your eggs is doing exactly that but as I’ve suggested above I think it’s the opposite.
Here’s what I recommend doing:
- Go for an initial consultation at a fertility clinic. You’ll get all the fertility tests that will give you a better idea of your chances of conceiving. They’ll arrange blood tests, and ultrasounds to check your fallopian tubes and antral follicle count.
- Find out more about being a single mother by choice. Normalise what can feel like a very ‘abnormal’ path to take. Again, this will help you get clearer about whether it’s the right path for you.
- Join an online group for SMCs. Get to know real women who have chosen single motherhood or are also thinking about it. You’ll feel less alone and less like the only ‘freak’ who hasn’t coupled up. Meeting mothers who were living the single mother reality showed me that if they could do it so could I.
- Make a decision. Make an active choice rather than having time take the decision out of your hands. If you take action the above, all the way up to the point at which an embryo is put into your womb you can take a pause and halt the process.
There are no guarantees that good fertility test results mean you can get pregnant. The only way to know that is to try. But if your results show that your fertility is in a steep decline then that could be the kick in the pants you need to make a decision one way or the other.
Overall my advice is – don’t let the decision about something so important be taken out of your hands. Freezing your eggs might feel like doing something, but really it’s just putting off the inevitable.
Maybe single motherhood isn’t right for you, but make a decision one way or another. Don’t get stuck in limbo. If you’re the wrong side of 35, don’t kid yourself that frozen eggs are the answer. If you REALLY want a baby it’s not the insurance policy it might appear to be.