Must-Read Fertility Stories That Tell Us What Egg Freezing and IVF Are Really Like
Updated: May 12
It's easy to view your own fertility in a bubble, as an indicator of your personal health and wellbeing and entirely derivative of them.
And whilst fertility certainly is related to your individual health, it's also part of a far broader, global system of medical, social and environmental factors.
Together, these headlines build up a picture of what egg freezing and IVF are really like and how they are treated...
1. It's eye-wateringly expensive...
There's no getting around the fact that fertility is fast becoming a luxury good.
The average cost of an egg freezing cycle in the US is $13,500 and IVF costs around $17,000. It's cheaper in countries like the UK (£6,000), Spain (EUR5,000) and South Africa (£3,000), but given many people need multiple cycles to be in with a good chance of having a baby, the costs quickly mount.
But as this Marie Claire article demonstrates, there's a rising tide of companies adding fertility coverage to their health benefits packages. The trend, sparked by tech leaders like Facebook and Google, has spread throughout many different industries and medium to large firms across banking, legal, media and more.
The news that her company would begin offering fertility benefits arrived just in the nick of time for Katie Moon, who tells Marie Claire that literally on the same day her privately paid-for treatment was due to begin, three separate colleagues had got in touch asking if she’d seen the news about the new perk her employer, Linkedin, would now offer.
"I just sat there," Kaite told Marie Claire.
"I thought there has to be some sort of catch."
But there wasn’t. She contacted HR and asked them if she was too late, having already begun the process. "And they said, “no, that’s totally fine” I couldn’t believe it."
Additionally, a number of innovators have popped up to help people manage costs, including clinics that offer financing programs and specialist loan providers.
2. It's considered non-essential...
Nothing has more neatly emphasised how assisted reproduction is considered within medical and social communities than the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak.
Despite the World Health Organisation classifying infertility as a "disease", fertility treatments are often categorised as lifestyle medicine, a non-specific category that includes non-essential, elective procedures, and that also attaches a kind of frivolous nature to them.
The thing is, struggles with and concerns about infertility are far from frivolous. People facing infertility experience anxiety on par with people undergoing cancer treatments.
As this article explains, tens of thousands of people are in the middle of fertility treatment - or were about to start - and now have to press hold on their plans.
One interviewee, Kirsty Duncan, was already taking her fertility drugs when the clinic called to say they couldn’t go ahead with her IVF cycle. With low egg ovarian reserve, every month of delay counts for Kirsty.
More often than not there is a tangible medical diagnosis for infertility that results from a problem with the reproductive system, hormones, or from another underlying medical condition. But even where no diagnosis can be made, or where treatment is given prophylactically (as in the case of egg or sperm freezing), the psychosocial impacts of concerns around future parenthood cannot be underestimated.
3. Fertility treatment is still often misunderstood...
There's a temptation to assume everyone facing fertility treatment is trying to have a baby right now and either got unlucky or "left it too late."
But the patients on the receiving fertility treatment are as diverse and as multi-faceted as any other. There is no one profile of a fertility patient, as this story of 21-year-old Kia Lorne illustrates.
The British student nurse had been plagued by crippling endometriosis - which caused agonising abdominal pain, nausea, bowel problems and low blood pressure.
As such, doctors put her through an artificial menopause at age 19, and she is trying to raise £5,000 to freeze her eggs in the hope she can have children in the future.
"It is odd to be thinking of children when it is something that I'd think about so far in the future." Kia told journalists. "It would be good if, somewhere along the way, this condition [endometriosis] would be considered sensitively."
Kia's story is a reminder that fertility problems can strike anyone, indiscriminately, just as any disease can.
4. It's not without (some) risks...
While the vast majority of egg freezing and IVF cycles that are carried out leave women with nothing worse than uncomfortable bloating, some hormonal mood swings, and other manageable side effects, a small percentage do result in serious complications.
The most common of these is Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome (OHSS), a condition that causes water retention that can become a serious medical problem if left untreated. But as this story of Argentine TV star Natalie Perez, 33 - best known for her role in the Telenovela ‘Pequena Victoria’ or ‘Little Victoria’ - reveals, there are other risks, too.
Natalie was reportedly hospitalised in Buenos Aires due to an internal haemorrhage after freezing her eggs. Ovarian bleeding after transvaginal egg retrieval is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication. It occurs if the ovary does not clot in the sites where the needle pierces it, and as a results continues to bleed.
The rate of this kind of complication is very low - with vaginal bleeding in 0.07% of women, intra-abdominal bleeding in 0.05%, intestinal injuries in 0.001%, and peritonitis, or an inflammation of the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) in 0.005%.
Generally, ovarian retrieval is considered routine and safe, but, as with any surgical procedure, there are inherent risks.
5. It's not uncommon...
Although it's easy to feel isolated and like you're all alone if you are facing concerns about your fertility now, or your future fertility, that's far from reality.
According to theCenters for Disease Control (CDC), infertility is a growing problem. Fertility rates in developed countries and cities around the world are at record lows.
As this article explains, there are a number of different things contributing to this, including greater awareness, environmental and social factors. And the good news is, that list includes some things which as individuals we can control.
For help understanding and tackling those factors within our control, explore the ELANZA Wellness Fertility Fit™ app, which takes you on a 12 week journey to better quality eggs, better frame of mind and a supportive community of likeminded women and experts.