Harriet (33, last name known to the editor) wants to freeze her eggs. Originally from England, she has lived in Switzerland and traveled extensively. Settling down somewhere with a partner has never happened. She wants children in the end, she is sure of that. But how much time does she have left? A fertility test she took (via Grip) reassured her. But while she now knows there is no rush in having children, she sees no harm in researching her options. “I see it as a gift to my future self.”
Yet that is not so 1-2-3 arranged. Many hospitals and clinics are currently faced with increasing waiting lists for egg freezing for non-medical reasons, partly due to corona. The UMC Utrecht even has a registration freeze. Since 1 February, the hospital has no longer treated new women, until at least mid-2021, according to the website. Harriet has therefore not come very far in the process. She has an appointment for a consultation, but if she decides to continue it may take months before she can actually start treatment.
Age was the deciding factor
Leonie (35, last name known to the editors) will have an intake at Erasmuc MC next month to have her eggs frozen. At a clinic she first approached, Medical Center Kinderwens (formerly VivaNeo) in Leiderdorp, she had to wait four months. She was able to go to the Rotterdam hospital a little earlier. Like Harriet, Leonie had her fertility tested first. And although her home test showed nothing alarming, she decided to take steps anyway. “Time goes by so fast, before I know it I am 38 and I think: if only … My age was the deciding factor. The younger you are, the better the quality of your eggs. If you do make this choice, you can Better do it ASAP. “
She has no partner, but she does want to have children. “I don’t feel a lot of pressure to start having children, I am quite relaxed, but I see around me that getting pregnant is not so easy with a number of friends. They are in all kinds of fertility processes. does not work and I only find out when it is already too late? “
She finds it reassuring that there will soon be eggs waiting in a freezer that she can always fall back on. “I don’t have to take advantage of it, I’d rather get pregnant the natural way, but it’s not certain that I will be in a relationship for the next five years. That’s why I think: I have nothing to lose. it doesn’t hurt. Yeah okay, it’s not cheap, but I have the financial means to do this, so why not? You actually buy time with it, that’s how I see it.
Thousands of euros
Egg preservation, as it is officially called, in the Netherlands quickly costs around three thousand euros per round. Without a medical indication, it will not be reimbursed by insurers. The more eggs you freeze, the greater the chance of a successful pregnancy later on. On average, ten eggs are harvested per puncture, eight of which can be frozen, says reproductive medicine doctor Dr. Nicole Beckers of fertility clinic Medisch Centrum Kinderwens (see also box). Most women undergo more than one treatment to freeze more eggs, she says. On average, they have 13 eggs frozen.
Ling Lin (33), one of the founders of the aforementioned fertility testing company Grip, had her eggs frozen at the Medical Center Kinderwens last year. “I’ve been considering it for some time. At this point in my life I’m focused on my career. I have a good job, I know I want children someday, but the time is not yet right. And I want to risk that. it will soon no longer be possible to limit as much as possible. It is nice to have a plan B. “
Injecting hormones yourself
She was not the only one in her environment who thought about this. Some of her friends also had eggs frozen. The younger the eggs, the better, so once Ling made the choice to go for it, she didn’t want to wait any longer. The first lockdown last year threw a spanner in the works, but after an intake interview in September, she was able to start treatment.
She was instructed to inject herself with hormones to stimulate egg maturation. “That was much easier than I expected,” she says. “I was very scared to stick a needle in my stomach, but it wasn’t that bad.” Ultimately, her eggs were taken from her in December. “I was given morphine and was conscious, but hardly felt any of it.”
Ling turned out to be lucky. In one round, 23 eggs could be collected, 19 of which were good enough to be frozen. “I actually wanted to do another round to increase my chances, but I was advised against that because of wasting money,” she says. “Using an online calculator I have calculated that with this amount of egg cells my chance of having one child is 73 to 89 percent. Pessimistic as I am, I don’t think that’s enough. That’s why I want to have embryos frozen in a few years, possibly with donor sperm. Then the chance of a successful outcome is even greater. ” But no treatment will give a 100 percent child guarantee, Ling is aware of this.
Still, it feels good that she has at least taken something. “Chances are that I will not even use the frozen eggs and any embryos, but at least I have this option at hand, just in case. Of course I hope I find a partner to grow old with, but on my own I can do one too pretty kick-ass to be older. It gives me a powerful feeling that I have taken control of this myself. Men can have children into old age and do not have to worry about that, we women really have a deadline. I have now postponed that. “
The fertility clinic Medisch Centrum Kinderwens also currently has longer waiting times for new patients (for all types of treatments). On the one hand, because in corona time the intakes were only done online and people later had to come to the clinic for research, which made the processes much more time-consuming. On the other hand, they temporarily have less capacity due to the dropout of practitioners for various reasons. “Nearly 200 patients are waiting for an appointment for an intake”, says reproductive medicine doctor Dr. Nicole Beckers, “and that is not only social freezers. “
Beckers does see an increase in these so-called ‘social freezers’, women who freeze their eggs for social reasons (as opposed to medical reasons). “We started these treatments in June 2011. In that first year we immediately performed 43 punctures, in the following years always between 10 and 20. In 2018 there were 31, in 2019 33 and in 2020 suddenly 70. In the first quarter of this year we are already on the 25 punctures. “
Chance of a live birth
In ten years time, about 260 women had their eggs frozen at the Medical Center Kinderwens. Of these, 30 women have returned to actually use the eggs, and 10 of them have had one or more children. Beckers: “There have been more pregnancies, but as you get older the risk of miscarriage also increases.” About a quarter of the 260 women became pregnant without using the frozen eggs.
With 13 frozen eggs – the average according to Beckers – the chance of a live birth is about 60 percent, according to the website of Medisch Centrum Kinderwens. With 20 eggs, this increases to 90 percent, but only if they are frozen in the ideal phase of life (before the age of 30). Hospitals such as the AMC only start freezing eggs after the age of 30 for non-medical reasons.