Kelly has still not met Mr. Right.
At 36, she’s reached professional success in her Baton Rouge hometown, but a growing stress began to gnaw at her awhile back. In full disclosure, her real name isn’t Kelly. “I’m getting older and haven’t found Mr. Right or Mr. Anything,” she said.
Neither of the women interviewed for this story were willing to do so using their real names. They’re reluctant to let the world, their bosses and professional colleagues, even in some cases, their friends and families, know that they have gone through the process of egg retrieval and freezing.
Tick tock. Tick tock.
“I was in a two-year relationship that was terrible. I don’t want to stay in a relationship because my biological clock is ticking,” she said. The question that kept greeting Kelly every morning was: As time marches on, even if she meets Mr. Right, will she still be able to get pregnant and have a baby
Fertility Answers’ Dr. Neil Chappell, based in Baton Rouge, says egg quality is closely linked to age and ideal candidates have a good egg number and quality. “Those two things are linked but not tied together,” he said. “The ovary makes all the eggs it has during early development and then holds those eggs in hibernation for the rest of life. Decline starts at age 32 and aggressively at 35 — so egg harvesting is best prior to the age of 35.”
However, Chappell said some women have had excellent success harvesting eggs in their late 30s. “Everyone goes through the eggs they were born with at a different rate,” he said. A simple blood test called Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is used to determine the number of eggs available. From there, candidacy for egg freezing is about a conversation, Chappell said.
“What are your fertility goals? How many kids do you want to have? What is your timeline?” asked Chappell. He adds that the procedure is involved, with a series of subcutaneous injections under the skin of the abdomen and the growth of eggs in the ovaries being monitored, but he says the procedure itself is not particularly invasive. It takes about 15 minutes under light anesthesia.
Abigail (not her real name) said when the rest of her friends started having families, she realized she didn’t want to rule out the option either. “Dating is exhausting and it’s horrible in Baton Rouge specifically. I considered freezing my eggs as an insurance plan,” she said. “The experience was totally empowering.”
Abigail, 35, said several friends opted to freeze their eggs and she believes the option is becoming increasingly more common. “I’m learning that there are a lot of ways to do life,” she said. She saw the whole process as a 10-day staycation. “I took a week off work and went to yoga every day. I ate really well and expected to be in more pain and discomfort after the procedure, but I really wasn’t,” she said.
Once Kelly learned about the process of egg retrieval and freezing, she made up her mind quickly and completed the process as soon as possible. She said she appreciated the insights gained through the testing process.
“They retrieved 15 eggs, but only nine were good enough to freeze,” she said. “I wish I would have known about it when I was younger so I could have made the decision earlier. Plus, my body may have reacted better if I was younger.”
Kelly’s situation is an example of why few women consider egg freezing earlier. “Doing this earlier is ideal, but who has that kind of money in your 20s?” she asked. “Most insurances don’t cover it — even if you’re infertile. I had a little coverage for the labs, but 99 percent of the expense was out of pocket for me.”
Chappell said that the cost of egg freezing varies from patient to patient. “The cost can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, broadly speaking,” he said. “However, more and more insurance companies and workplaces are covering this service, so I would advise patients not to assume that they don't have coverage.”
In the Fertility Answers consultation with patients, Chappell said that they provide a comprehensive cost analysis. “As for maintaining eggs, the cost for long term storage is usually a few hundred dollars per year,” Chappell said.
In a perfect world, Kelly hopes she’ll meet Mr. Right any day now — and if she does, she has a backup plan that increases the odds of her having a safe and healthy pregnancy.