Real Talk: Egg Freezing
Updated: Apr 6
Let's start with the obvious question. Why?
There are so many reasons why someone might consider freezing their eggs. The choice is highly individualized and personal. Since I can't speak for others, I am just going to stick to my story, and my why.
Before I had even graduated from college, I was already pursuing a career as a professional athlete. I had one sole focus - to go to the Olympics, and win a gold medal. (Any professional athlete who says their goal is otherwise, is lying to you.) The pursuit of that goal is life consuming. You eat, breathe, sleep and live 365 days a year with that goal on your mind. Everything else takes a back seat, and before you know it, seasons pass and your twenties have come and gone.
So much for being married at 27 and starting a family before 30. My thirteen year old self would be so disappointed in me... probably until she saw all the cool places I had traveled to and the amazing lessons I had learned.
Hello, 30. That happened fast.
I made the choice to retire at 30. With a whole world out there, I wanted to do something other than train and race. I was tired. My body was tired. And, I had other ambitions. But, transitioning out of sport was not seamless for me. It took me years to get my feet back under me and to even start to understand my place in the world as a "normal human." I was still figuring out who I was and what my identity was now that it wasn't professional athlete. And, while I dated, a lot, I was unsuccessful, and probably fortunately so, in finding my person and "settling down" the way society expects me to have. The years slipped by and while I focused on building a career, and getting to know myself again, I remained hopeful with each date that "Mr. Right" was right around the corner.
Spoiler alert: he wasn't. Still waiting.
Egg freezing started to be a conversation when I was about 35. As more and more of my friends got married and started to think about having children, I started to think about what it was that I might want. I knew people who had gone through the process, or who were using IVF to start a family, but I was still hesitant. It felt like freezing my eggs was giving up. My perpetual optimism kept me thinking that I'd meet the guy and having a child alone one day wasn't going to be something I had to think about. Freezing my eggs, let alone being single in my late 30's, was not something that I had ever even considered as a possibility.
And then, the pandemic hit, and life was put on pause. 35 and 36 ticked by and suddenly, I was firmly a geriatric (by pregnancy standards) and still without my person and without a real idea of what my future was going to look like. It dawned on me that there was a real possibility that I would never find my person, and I that I would have to face 40 alone.
I've never been a person that was 100% set on having kids, and perhaps that's just a self-preservation thing. I love children, as anyone who follows my IG knows (my nephews are amazing!) but I truly believe that whether I do, or I don't, have children I will be fine. I am not, and will not be, defined by having them, but I did realize that I would like to have the option.
That is my why. I want to have the option. Whether or not I find the guy, whether or not I get married, I want to have a say, to have some control, over what my future looks like.
As a woman, there are certain truths that we have to face. Fertility being one of the biggest. The window to have children remains unchanged even as more and more women pursue higher education and meaningful careers and subsequently make the decision to delay starting a family. And, that is where egg freezing can create time and opportunity.
It's important for me to note, as it's been drilled into my head 100x by my doctor, that freezing your eggs does not guarantee that you can ever successfully have a child. It's not an insurance policy by any means.
So, where did that leave me?
Well, I finally did my first egg freeze cycle in November of 2021. At 37, and painfully single after another breakup, I realized: A. I was not getting any younger, B. I was not getting any less single and C. I had more and more friends share their family building challenges and realized how important it was for me to do this for myself. I decided that I needed to act, and I needed to act quickly.
My first cycle was incredibly successful. I am very fortunate that my antral follicle count and AMH levels are still excellent, especially for someone my age who spent more than a decade placing extreme physical stress on their body. My team was able to extract 26 eggs during the procedure, 15 of which ended up being mature. Those eggs are now "on ice" or as I say "they're vacationing at the ski house in Aspen" for when I'm ready to take the next step towards motherhood.
So why a second cycle?
While 15 frozen eggs may seem like a lot, it actually only gives me a roughly 60% chance of having one child. Crazy, right?!
How is that possible? Well, you have to take into consideration a few things.
My age. At 37, the quality of my eggs is not as great as it was when I was in my late 20's or even early 30's.
Eggs that are cryopreserved (*between the age of 35 and 37) still have to be:
a. thawed (92% survive this process)
b. fertilized (38% succeed at this)
c. pass genetic testing (60% )
So, let's do the math for 15 cryopreserved eggs.
92% survive thawing = 13.8 remaining eggs
38% of remaining are successfully fertilized = 5.2 blastocysts
60% pass genetic testing = 3.15 viable embryos
And that's all assuming that the sperm you're working with are good quality and carry minimal mobility and genetic abnormalities.
Every clinic has different success rates with transferring embryos, but the average seems to be between a 60 and 65% success rate. This is why it's generally suggested that a woman has 3 embryos for every 1 child she wishes to have.
As I looked at those numbers after my first cycle, and considered what I want for my future, if I choose to have children, it became clear to me that while 15 was a great start, it wasn't really enough of a safety net in my mind. Studies have shown that egg quality and success rates drop off significantly once you hit 38, so I decided to go all in and do another cycle before I reached that milestone.
And that, brings us to today. Cycle 2.
I figured this time around, I'd share a bit more about the process and the journey, because, well, it's a pretty lonely journey and it can frankly be overwhelming. It's also not something we talk about, and honestly, we should. So, with that...