By Valerie Landis
“Wait … wait, what? Why are you freezing again?” This is a question I get on a regular basis
Often whenever I’m talking to anyone about my very public decision to freeze my eggs not once, not twice, but three times, I get a lot of raised eyebrows. “How many eggs do you have or need frozen?” is often the follow-up question that comes next. While many may look at me like a crazy egg freezing lady, I know that my fertility choices are smart. I like to think of myself as a smart egg freezing lady instead of the crazy egg freezing lady.
I have frozen my eggs several times to increase my odds of the science working for me. I learned that it would be ideal to freeze several times during my talks and chats with fertility specialists all over the United States. I have nearly two decades of experience working with many different fertility clinics and doctors. Due to my work within the industry of fertility and reproductive health, I became educated about my own fertility choices. I feel like I’ve always known the benefits of egg freezing and oocyte cryopreservation and wasn’t afraid to let the technology help me.
Egg freezing is a relatively new procedure in fertility treatment. The Catholic church helped push the need for freezing eggs as they did not like the idea of destroying embryos due to the debate when life starts. We have been freezing sperm with no problems for years, but egg freezing was always a challenge due to the fragile nature of the eggs. Because eggs are made up of mostly water like fluid and often the eggs would burst and be damaged when trying to freeze. It wasn’t until the technology of vitrification came on to the scene did egg freezing become a real viable option for women.
Vitrification was a game changer for egg freezing
In 2012, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) approved egg freezing for non-medical reason such as a life-threatening illness or cancer. Now egg freezing could be used commercially for any woman.
My first fertility cycle was in 2015. I had just had my 33rd birthday. It seemed like a very proactive and responsible choice to make for my early 30s. What better gift could I give myself? It was certainty better than spending my money on lavish vacations or buying an expensive new car. I had already owned a home and paid off my school loans. This was a decision that felt like was holding more weight than any other choice I’ve ever made.
What could be more important than securing my family’s future?
Fertility and family building touch the deepest roots of who we are as people and what we value. Most of us have grown up with the misunderstanding that if we were to have sex any time it could lead to falling pregnant. It can come to a big shock to most when they actually want to be pregnant and it doesn’t happen naturally right away or at all. We see celebrities on the daily who just seem to wake up and get pregnant. Look for example how fast Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced they were expecting only several months after getting married. Or how about Janet Jackson who at 50 years old announces she is pregnant. Other women like Kim Kardashian or Scheana Shay have come out publicly to say they have frozen their eggs. These tabloid stories are dime a dozen and make it look like pregnancy can happen fast or easy. It feels like there is something in the water and we can all just fall pregnant at a snap of a finger, but the details behind how these well-known celebs became pregnant may not always be clear. Perhaps they used a fertility clinic or donor eggs or sperm or had a surrogate carry their child, the paths to parenthood are many and these details seem to be left private and not discussed when a public figure announces a birth or pregnancy.
For me, I wanted to avoid heartbreak down the road when it came to having a family
Life seemed to be moving so fast and I wasn’t in a relationship or meeting a parenting partner that wanted to settle down and create a family with yet that made sense. Little did I know, but soon would find out that choosing to freeze my eggs would open a whole host of new doors and connect me to a community of women that soon would be my new BFFs. What an evolution this fertility journey has taken me over the last several years.
To bring you up to speed on my personal journey and explain how I got to where I am today, I first must explain what happened during my first cycle freezing. During my first experience freezing, I felt very alone. It felt taboo to talk about the egg freezing choice or depressing and sad that I was going through this experience alone, even though I was feeling empowered. I just wanted to meet or talk to other women who were freezing too.
At that time, it was hard to find anyone who would admit to freezing their eggs, not having a partner to become a parent with, and be public about their very personal fertility choices. The news and media had a few articles published that mostly talked about egg freezing not working and how expensive it was for no guarantee. Many wanted to describe my choices like I was betting my future on a game of Russian Roulette or gambling my future in Las Vegas, but I was young and had good hormone levels.
Once vitrification was main stream and clinics were able to produce live births from their frozen eggs, confidence was building in freezing. This history is important because it has led us to where we are today. Many women were not encouraged to freeze multiple times because it was so expensive and taxing. Or they were much older where unless they banked over 40-50 eggs back then would it be a higher rate of pregnancy and live birth success so often it was discouraged instead of explained.
Egg freezing education is needed
That is an important lesson we need to understand. We don’t fix problems by not teaching or educating people on their options. Egg freezing and fertility can be overwhelming. It is best to take all of these facts and science details in small doses. I really credit my career history for being so knowledgeable and lead me to choose my own health decisions. So that is why I have frozen several times. I want to de-risk-ify egg freezing and provide the most possibility for success in the future by freezing my eggs multiple times.
As I approach my third egg freezing treatment, I am de-risk-ifying once again and choosing to make part of my eggs into embryos. My personal goal is to afford myself as many viable options to parenthood as I can. One more secure chance of motherhood is to create embryos. Embryos have more cells and polar bodies to survive freeze and thaw better than eggs alone. The only drawback is that when an embryo is created, both genetic parties (male and female) genes have been chosen and selected. Essentially by making embryos, I am choosing the biological father of my future kids. That can be hard to do if you are not open to a sperm donor.
Becoming a single mother
I may want to become a single mother by choice or my desires to become a mother could outweigh my desire for a relationship, freezing embryos too just makes sense. If I choose to raise a family alone without a partner, I will eventually have to go down this path of choosing a biological father anyways. My plan was to fertilize a few of my eggs and try to create embryos to see how my eggs would respond using donor sperm.
I have finally chosen my sperm donor and ready the next phase of the process. After two other egg freezing cycles collecting a total of 29 eggs, I can breathe easier that this third cycle is not a make or break. I can bank a few more eggs and hopefully have one or two embryos as well frozen. That is the goal, but this is science. Until I actually try to use my eggs or implant my embryos I will never know if it will work.
Fertility involved something I like to call egg math. It is all a numbers game. Each egg collected has between a two to 12 per cent chance of turning into a live birth. However, there are many steps from getting a frozen egg into a baby. Not all of the eggs one banks will turn into a human. That is why having more quality eggs frozen is necessary for a good return on your investment. This is why freezing your eggs multiple times is very beneficial.
I would recommend if you have been thinking about egg freezing to start by getting your levels checked
You can ask your primary doctor or a fertility specialist to order an anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) blood test and perform a pelvic ultrasound to measure your antra-follicle count (AFC). These exams and tests will give you a baseline you can always reference. I recommend these tests sooner than later to make an informed choice.
Next I suggest one check out resources like my blog eggsperience.com or listen to Eggology Club podcast to help understand their reproductive health options. Be sure to also watch for the upcoming docu-series called THIS IS EGG FREEZING to watch my journey freezing multiple times.
I have felt a freeing calm come over me for making these lifelong strategy decisions and fertility plans
I want you to also feel good about your future. Feel free to find me online and ask me any questions you might have about egg freezing or fertility. I’m happy to help guide you through the complex choices of fertility and find the right decisions for your life.