Instead of learning to make sourdough in lockdown, I froze my eggs. As a 35-year-old single woman, I’d been mulling over the treatment for around a year, rolling around big questions in my head. Could I afford it? How emotional would it be? Would the drugs make me sad? Were the success rates worth it? I came down in favour, had my operation in July (also known as the “egg collection” or “egg harvest” – most fertility terminology is pretty grim), while also recording a podcast of my journey for other women considering freezing.
Having researched it, and spent a genuinely mad amount of time reading threads about it on the internet (not necessarily recommended), I assumed I knew what to expect: bloating, tears and mood swings as lively as Krakatoa. But there were still plenty of surprises when it came to actually going through the process, some good, some bad. Here’s a handy list for anyone who needs one…
1. Going to a fertility clinic on your own can feel quite lonely
I picked my clinic because I’d taken a friend there for her egg freezing operation and liked the staff, but a lot of clinics offer free opening evenings or talks about egg freezing if you want to check a few out and chat to their doctors. That said, wherever you end up, it might feel an alien, clinical place if you’re there on your own (How did I get here? What are they going to do to me? Shit, I’m wearing my oldest trainers and what if my feet smell when I put them in the stirrups?). You may be surrounded by couples and find yourself staring at baby posters when you’re not even sure you want one of those yet anyway. You just want to put that decision on ice for a few years. I tried to make friends by smiling at everyone in the waiting room, before remembering I was wearing a mask and it looked as if I was death-staring them all in turn. Don’t do that.
2. The costs can quickly rack up
Clinics often list a price for the treatment, typically a supermarket-style deal of around £3,800 for one round of freezing or £10,000 for three – but this price probably won’t include drug and blood test costs. The drug costs will depend on your age and fertility level but can reach dizzying levels for something that’s not going to give you any sort of buzz. I had blood tests every other day in the week before my operation because my hormone levels were high, which made the final total closer to £5,000.
3. The injections really aren’t that bad
I made a huge fuss ahead of my first one, sighing and grumbling to my family as if I was about to stab myself through the heart with a shot of adrenalin. In the end, the needle slid into my stomach fat like a knife into butter that’s been out of the fridge for too long, and I felt pathetic for making such a big deal. For those who are super needle-phobic, apparently listening to music through headphones while you’re doing it can help.
4. Prepare for your ovaries to balloon
An ovary is normally slightly bigger than a grape, but during treatment they can become as big as tennis balls as the egg follicles on them grow to around one to two centimetres each. “Yours were slightly bigger than tennis balls,” said my doctor when I checked this with him. This procedure is not glamorous.
5. You might develop bizarre crushes
A week into the injections, when my oestrogen levels were soaring, I started checking out men with the enthusiasm of Joan Collins limbering up for husband number six. Middle-aged man walking his spaniel in the park? Come at me. Guy in the dairy aisle of Sainsbury’s with mustard down his T-shirt? Yes, please. I watched the news one morning and even felt a stirring for Eamonn Holmes. Anti-FGM campaigner Nimco Ali, who’s also recently had her eggs frozen, says she was the same, “like a dog on heat.” Beware.
6. On no account actually shag anyone
As you get closer to your operation date, any sexy urges will likely fade as your stomach puffs up and you’ll feel roughly as attractive as that Spitting Image puppet of Michael Gove. But if the opportunity presents itself, avoid. At this stage, you’re Fertile Myrtle, your ovaries are (hopefully) bursting with eggs and you’d be much more likely to get pregnant than normal.
7. Bad news: you may feel worse after your operation than before
When it comes to egg freezing, all the focus is on the day of collection itself (HOW MANY EGGS HAVE I GOT?) as if that’s the endpoint. Little thought is given to the aftermath. But although your eggs have been sucked out and popped in the freezer, you’re still rammed with hormones and will remain bloated for a few days yet. I lay groaning on my mum’s sofa for five days after the harvest in my biggest pants. Don’t automatically plan to skip back to work straight afterwards.
8. More bad news: your metabolism could be affected for a couple of months afterwards
One friend who’s frozen her eggs says she felt like it was a few months before her system felt normal again. My stomach still seems to be a bit chunkier than previously, although this could be all the lockdown cake.
9. Last bit of bad news: your period might act up for a while too
A couple of months on, my cycle (another terrible word. Can we invent a new one?) still isn’t as regular as it was before freezing. My doctor says this is uncommon, but in yet another bout of intense Googling, I discovered a few other women online saying they’d found the same. It should work its way back to normal eventually.
10. After this palaver, if you mention you’ve frozen your eggs, other women might say they have too
It’s a bit like therapy in this respect, as if there’s safety in numbers. Having banged on and on about it, I discovered that various friends, or friends of friends, had done the same. The more we talk about these things, the easier it becomes. And while there’s never any guarantee of a baby from your frozen eggs, there’s certainly no shame in having it done. So much luck if that’s you.
From British Vogue