The days of women preparing for the yearly harvest, tending to the household and popping out kids for a living are pretty much behind us.
Sure, it’s still cool to harvest, clean and procreate, but most women these days choose to enter the work force first. Or perhaps go to uni or travel or do something else purely for themselves.
And often, women choose to do these things before settling down and having kids.
Perhaps women ran out of things to harvest. Perhaps our modern world is simply not ideal for young mums. Or perhaps women simply decided that there is more to life than just having babies.
Whatever the case, many women are not ready to have babies in their early 20s. Even if our uteruses are.
Age isn’t just a number when it comes to baby-making
Here’s the thing. Prime baby making time is early on in our lives. Well, our reproductive systems seem to think so at least. A woman’s prime fertile age is between 20 and 24, which, as you may recall, is also your prime partying age. And probably not exactly your most maternal or responsible age.
While 70 years ago, the average Australian mum was in her early twenties, nowadays the average Aussie mum is 31. And experts project this age will continue to increase. In fact, 22% of mums are over 35.
With every passing birthday, we become more and more mature. We become responsible. We learn to save our money and change our priorities from shoes and bar hopping to things like superannuation and fitness class.
But, as our minds prepare for the next step – babies – our bodies are already failing us. You see, from around the age of 30, your fertility rapidly decreases, making it harder to fall pregnant. At the age of 25 or younger, you have a 25-35% chance of falling pregnant each month. At 36? Around 15%. And at 41? Only four per cent.
Irony is an asshole, isn’t it?
Freeze now, maybe baby later
So what do you do? Do you put your career, your dreams of home-ownership and your desire to travel on hold? Or do you give up on the idea of becoming a mum?
For many mums, the answer lies in egg freezing. It did for Sandra Durrington and her then-husband Glen. Like many couples, Sandra and Glen were busy building their careers during their 20s and early 30s. The thought of having kids didn’t even cross their minds until Sandra was 33.
The couple tried to conceive naturally for three years, but without success. They underwent IVF in the hopes of conceiving and decided to freeze the remaining eggs, just in case.
Sandra was implanted with two embryos and froze the remaining six. Fortunately, the IVF worked on the first go and Sandra gave birth to her daughter, Charlotte, in July 2006. Sandra, a first time mum at 37, knew that if they wanted a sibling for Charlotte, they would need to rely on the frozen eggs.
After much discussion, Sandra and Glen opted against using the remaining frozen eggs. “We decided that Charlotte was enough. What we did instead was donate the eggs to someone who needed help.”
How egg freezing works
Although it wasn’t talked about much when Sandra underwent the process, egg freezing is gaining momentum today. It offers a way for women to freeze their fertility and gives them the best chance of falling pregnant down the road.
“Egg freezing is like taking out insurance for your fertility,” Melbourne obstetrician Dr Joseph Sgroi explains. “To obtain eggs for freezing in what’s called an egg retrieval, a woman undergoes hormonal stimulation over 10–12 days which stimulates a group of eggs to mature. A stimulated cycle usually results in the collection of 10-12 eggs (10-20 eggs in women younger than 35). Around 15-20 eggs are required to generate a single pregnancy.
“Unfertilised eggs are then frozen until they are to be used. They can be stored for many years. When the woman is ready to use her eggs, they are thawed and then fertilised with sperm.”
The egg extraction process is somewhat painful and expensive, but for many women, it’s worth it.
Costs will vary but you can expect to pay about $4,990 for the egg freezing cycle, $1500-$2500 for medications, $1,200 for day surgery and anaesthetist, $300 for initial freezing and $500 per year for storage of the eggs.
Choosing to freeze
There is also the emotional process to consider. “Like the IVF process, the emotional side of freezing your eggs is pretty intense.” Sandra admits. “Plus, people feel the need to give their opinions along the way.”
“You just need to learn to ignore the negativity and focus on why you’re doing it. For your future.”
For Sandra, freezing her eggs gave her the opportunity to decide if having another child was something she wanted. It gave her a choice, one that is often made for us once we reach a certain age. When she decided to donate, it also gave her the chance to give another couple this choice.
“I would highly suggest looking into freezing your eggs,” Sandra tells Mum Central. “Especially, women who are in careers, or aren’t sure if they want kids. By freezing your eggs, you are giving yourself this option, even if you choose not to take it.”
And if you’re wondering how long eggs can remain frozen, check out this article about a baby born from an embryo frozen for 24 years.