By Mia Abrahams
For a lot of us in our 20s, the only time we think about pregnancy is when it directly relates to how we can *not* get pregnant. While we are (reasonably) informed about our options when it comes to birth control — whether that’s the pill, IUD, condoms, pulling out and praying (JK - that last one is NOT an effective birth control method!) — it seems like it’s gonna be pretty easy to get pregnant when we want to. Right?
Wellll maybe. But also maybe not. Something we don’t talk about as much when we are young is the fact that for some women, getting pregnant isn’t easy at all. So, why don’t we spend as much time thinking about how we might be able to have kids, when and if we ever want to?
Of course, you might not want kids. You might be single, focusing on yourself, your work, your One Direction fan site — and that’s great! But is it worth getting informed just in case the day comes where Harry Styles finally answers your DMs and wants to start a family?
At THINX, we say the more information the better. And so does Agnes Fischer, Founder of Frozen Please, a site dedicated to egg freezing, and author of the book Eggs Unscrambled: Egg Freezing, Fertility, and the Truth About Your Reproductive Years.
So, why should we start thinking about our fertility in our 20s even if we aren’t ready to have kids? “Women need to be proactive about their fertility options,” says Agnes. “Fertility is one of those things you don’t start thinking about until it becomes a problem— but that’s like not thinking about condoms until you’ve had an unwanted pregnancy or STD.”
Women have more and more options than ever in terms of choosing when (and if) to have kids, and more older women are getting pregnant than ever before. This is great news, of course. But, it doesn’t mean that our fertility doesn’t decrease as we get older. Our 20s are still the best time, biologically speaking, to get and stay pregnant. Also, there are many more risks associated with pregnancy the further beyond 30 you get.
At 36, Agnes found herself recently divorced after several rounds of failed fertility treatments, but still wanting to keep the door open for having children. She decided to take her fertility into her own hands, and freeze her eggs.
What is egg freezing? Well, we go into the details in a previous blog post, but basically, you take artificial hormones to help you ovulate a whole bunch of eggs at once. Then, the doctors take those eggs and freeze them in subzero temperatures until you might decide to get pregnant. Why would you do this? Well, it preserves your eggs when you are more fertile (but not ready or sure about having children), so that in the future, at an age when it might be more difficult for you to get pregnant, you have healthy, younger (chilly) eggs to use.
So what’s the downside? Well cost is a biggie, and, as Agnes points out, the process is not widely available, and is rarely covered by health insurance. “The health insurance world is run by antiquated white men who don’t consider reproductive health to be health,” Agnes reminds us.
The price can be anywhere between $10k-$16k plus storage costs ($800-1400 per year). Then, you need to consider the actual cost of implementation (using the eggs to get you pregnant). But, Agnes says, if it’s something you may be able to afford, or save up for, it might be better than doing nothing.
Another potential downside? There are no guarantees. There have been studies on success rates that suggest about 25 to 40 percent of women who freeze their eggs wind up having a baby. Which is… not great. But, Agnes points out, there also aren’t super-reliable statistics about how well egg freezing works, because the numbers just aren’t there yet. Egg freezing didn’t come off the experimental market until 2012, so many women who have frozen eggs haven’t yet thawed them (like I said, the stats just aren’t there yet).
Thinking about fertility and egg freezing and what it all means now that you’re growing up? Agnes suggests asking your gyno to test your ovarian reserves and give you the day 2 blood test for FHS or AMH levels (so you can find out how much longer you might be able to keep producing eggs).
Agnes does caution that these “aren’t conclusive necessarily, but they can be directional. I had a good friend who has three-year-old twins through a donor egg. She didn’t get married until 38, she didn’t get any tests done until her late 30s. They found she was going into early menopause. She spent all this time trying not to get pregnant, and having this blood work in her 20s would have given her a clue about how much time she had.”
Agnes hopes that continuing to have a conversation around fertility and egg freezing will bring it into the mainstream, and eventually increase accessibility — and hopefully, one day, ensure it’s covered by health insurance. “My hope is that heightened dialogue about this topic will eventually drive demand and, as a result, that fertility treatments will simply become part of our standard reproductive health care options.”
Of course, as Agnes points out in her book, the goal of this conversation is not to scare you into dropping everything and running out to get pregnant like, today. Instead, it’s to inform you about your options, and keep the conversation around fertility open.
“Fertility is a feminist issue. It’s a modern woman’s issue…. It’s a larger commentary in what’s happening in the world today.”
Have you considered egg freezing? Have you frozen your eggs? See you in the comments!