For the many women with fertility issues it is even more important to act when you’re young. I have a cyst on my right ovary which hampers its ability to produce eggs, and doctors tell me that this might make me go into menopause in my late 30s.
On top of all this was my severe experience with the coronavirus. I was reading reports online about some women never getting their period back after serious cases of Covid-19; combined with the realisation that I wouldn’t be settling down and having children any time soon, I thought the sooner I acted the better.
I came home from hospital at the end of March and, after a few months of recovery, I booked myself in for treatment at IVF London where I am also training.
As soon as my last period started on September 1, I started injecting myself with hormones which get your ovaries ready for egg collection. The first round of drugs causes your body to produce more eggs in a month than is normal, and then a second set of injections triggers your ovaries to release them.
The drugs can cause your ovaries to swell – Money-Coutts said she was as bloated as Violet Beauregarde – but I didn’t find it too bad. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t painful either.
A fortnight later, I was ready for the collection. I went to the clinic, put on a medical gown and was wheeled into the theatre where I was sedated. The doctor inserted needles into my vagina and harvested the eggs from my ovaries.
When I came round, they told me they had collected eight eggs in total, with just one coming from the ovary with a cyst. It’s not an amazing haul, but it’s OK. To top up the numbers, I’m planning on having another round either next year or the one after.
I took a day off to recover and get over the sedation, and then was straight back to work without any complications. There was some discomfort, but nothing that a couple of paracetamol couldn’t help.
Of course, egg freezing isn’t a miracle treatment that will guarantee me children. For each egg collected, there’s only a six per cent chance of it becoming a baby, which means it’s less than 50/50 that I could have a child from the round I did.
I don’t see it as my plan A for having a family; more as an insurance policy to boost my chances if I don’t find the right man in time.
It’s also not cheap. The NHS will only fund it if you’re going through medical treatment that will affect your fertility, like chemotherapy. A typical round done privately might cost between £3,000 and £4,000, with an additional £1,000 or so on top for the drugs.
You will then need to pay storage fees for your eggs every year until you use them. There’s currently a 10-year limit for storing women’s eggs for social reasons, after which they must either go through with fertility treatment or destroy them – the Nuffield Council on Bioethics is currently arguing this limit should be extended to give women more time and options.
I feel lucky that I even know about any of this. In school, we are taught that it’s very easy to get pregnant and we must be extremely diligent to avoid it. That might be the right advice for teenagers, but is much less true by the time you’re in your late 30s and are desperately trying for a child.
I’m trying to spread the word about egg freezing to my friends in their 20s. As you get older, your odds get worse – the chance of pregnancy from thawed eggs declines rapidly if they were harvested over the age of 35. Yet data from UK fertility regulator HFEA shows that the most common age at which women are freezing is 38, with many doing so into their 40s. I tell my friends to do it now if they can afford it – some are even paying on credit cards, while their eggs are top quality.