A lot of women may not yet be ready to have children at various ages, for various reasons. While some don't want children at all, others are postponing baby-making until they feel ready to be parents. Or adopting. There is nothing wrong with this, however fertility is not immune to time and the longer you wait to have children, the harder it could be to conceive, regardless of how well you take care of your physical health.
According to the Cape Fertility website, a woman is born with a finite number of eggs. "At puberty, that number has dwindled to 300 000 and subsequently approximately 750 eggs are lost each month by a process called atresia. The eggs not only begin to diminish in quantity, but especially also in quality," they write. The older you get, the less chances you have for effortless conception.
Egg freezing can be a viable solution for women who want to wait while they make a decision about wanting biological children.
About the procedure
Dr Johan van Schouwenburg from the MedFem Fertility Clinic says that the procedure is a popular one, with roughly one to four women per week coming in to get it done. According to Dr Johan, the ovaries are stimulated with a hormonal injection that is taken every day for five to 10 days.
The ripeness of the ovaries is monitored during this time, and once they are ready, the eggs are extracted from the ovaries through the vagina by means of a needle. "We usually start on day three of a woman's menstrual cycle, and we extract the eggs on day 12," says Dr Johan.
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Once extracted, the eggs are frozen through vitrification. The number of eggs that can be extracted depends on how old the woman is, but the doctor estimates that 15 to 20 eggs can be extracted and frozen at a time.
About the cost of the whole procedure, Dr Johan could not give an exact figure because the cost depends on how much of the hormone medication is used to get the ovaries to produce enough eggs; however, the whole procedure can cost roughly around R40 000 in total, according to the MedFem website.
The only known risks to this procedure, Dr Johan explains, is if the patient has negative medical reactions to the anesthetic and to the medication.
Why do women do it?
There are various reasons why women have their eggs done. "One of them is when women get diagnosed with cancer. After chemotherapy and radiation, they won't have many eggs left so for this reason they have their eggs frozen beforehand," says Dr Johan. Another reason that he provides is that women become focused on building their careers and businesses and so they wait until they're in their late 30s or 40s to have children. Rhiane Kirkby in Stylist writes that women are freezing their eggs because they "lack stable partners".
Elizabeth* had her eggs frozen and she shared her reasons with us:
Living in Cape Town, you never seem to grow up. There are always more interesting projects, people and parties around the corner. This is all fine, except if you have decided to have children 'one day' and it seems that 'one day', according to fertility estimates, is right about now. I decided to go through the process of egg freezing until I am ready to be an adult, a parent, a role model.
I am sure there are many things in life that are more difficult to do than egg freezing, however, making the decision to go through it by yourself can be quite nerve wrecking. The idea that things had come to this point is something to work through. Then you have to consider that you are not simply surrendering to fate, but in a way fighting it. Once decided, you simply have to follow through pumping the injections and tolerating the hormonal roller coaster.
I am glad that I followed through and have some frozen eggs to pull out of my handkerchief one day. However, the specialist estimating (according to my fertility) four times the amount of eggs that we actually got and blaming it on a illness we discussed before I started the process, then recommending a second freezing session after treatment of the disease, makes me wonder how much of the rush is based on the financial gain the specialists are getting out of it. They are clearly in a position where having your own child is a priceless carrot they can dangle in front of your nose.
Even though I did what I could, at the end of the day, I still trust fate and that things will work out as they should. I am more than happy to utilise western technology, however, I believe there are some age old things, some unexplained magic in this world, that cannot be controlled with the highest intelligence, capabilities, money or willpower. These are things that your heart will attract when it is ready for it.
It's unfortunate that women are constantly in a race against the biological clock, but establishing your place in the world and nurturing your career can be less worrying when you know that you have a back-up plan. If egg-freezing isn't for you, remember that you can still have the family you want through adoption and surrogacy.
Watch a clip on egg freezing from The Real below:
*Name has been changed.
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