Going solo: What are my options?
“Are my eggs OK?” Everyone around you is more and more health- and lifestyle-conscience. You drink raw pressed juice, work out seven days a week and eat only organic to stay healthy. Your medicine cabinet is full of vitamins, and your naturopath has you on a cocktail of herbs and supplements to balance your hormones and prevent aging. So, what about your eggs? Everyone knows someone suffering with infertility, and we all worry, “Will it be me?”
It’s never too early to have a fertility evaluation. Although we know that natural fertility declines over the age of 30, and more rapidly after 37, the truth is that every woman’s biological clock is different. Women are all born with a certain number of eggs and the rate at which we lose these eggs from birth until menopause varies from one woman to the next. At menopause, women have only a few hundred eggs left.
The first step for any woman who wants to find out about her fertility potential, is to see a fertility specialist. The specialist will do testing to evaluate your “ovarian reserve,” in the form of blood tests and ultrasounds, and then they can give you a reasonable idea of your individual egg supply.
One option at this point is to say OK and continue to monitor your ovarian reserve periodically over the next few months and see how things go before deciding on any more involved treatments. This could be with a blood test and/or ultrasound every six months to a year. Just having the evaluation by a fertility specialist will give you a lot of knowledge and can really help you feel in control of your future fertility plans.
Egg freezing: Putting fertility on hold
You are a trader or banker who works 18-hour days and never leaves the office.
You travel the world for lead news stories, spending most of your days in flight or overseas.
Your goal is to see all the places on your bucket list with your partner before starting a family.
You are in med school and have years of training ahead.
You haven’t met that perfect someone yet.
Does this sound familiar? Is this you? Well, not to worry! It’s many women these days! We are concentrating on furthering ourselves, our careers, our education, our experiences, prior to having children.
Times have changed. Women are delaying childbearing for many reasons, whether it be to pursue higher education, establish a professional career, travel the world or just wait longer to meet Mr. Right. Technology has kept up with these societal changes, and we now have ways to potentially “preserve your fertility.”
Until recently, egg freezing was believed to be useful for only a small population of women, such as those undergoing toxic medical treatment that would severely damage their eggs (such as cancer treatment, chemotherapy, radiation).
However, the technology has improved so much that, now, most fertility clinics are offering egg freezing to women who want to delay fertility for medical or non-medical reasons.
What is egg freezing? Egg freezing is a process by which eggs (oocytes) are removed from the ovaries (the organs that produce eggs) after stimulation with fertility drugs for a period of time. These eggs are frozen, or vitrified, in a laboratory by trained scientists (embryologists) to save until a woman is ready to use them.
The process usually takes two weeks and requires a woman to take fertility injections for 10 to 12 days and to undergo monitoring with blood work and an ultrasound to assess the response to treatment. At the end of the treatment, the eggs are retrieved by inserting a needle through the vagina under anesthesia, typically in the fertility doctor’s office. The cost varies from clinic to clinic. Currently, an egg-freezing cycle is not covered by any government in Canada.
We generally advise that egg freezing is best for women under the age of 38, but anyone who is considering this should make an appointment with a fertility doctor to see if they are a good candidate.
“I’m ready to have a baby on my own”
“I’m ready to be a mom.” For many women, being a parent does not depend on having a partner, and the truth is, it doesn’t need to.
Single parenting has become more and more common. Whether it’s because that perfect someone has not come along or perhaps having a partner is not part of your life plan, starting a family is still possible.
You will need to use a sperm donor, and luckily many sperm donors are available through various sperm banks. Usually these donors are anonymous, and the sperm is frozen and shipped to the fertility clinic of your choice. After consulting with a fertility doctor, testing and making a treatment plan, sperm is thawed and inseminated into you via a process called an IUI (intrauterine insemination).
We recommend that any woman interested in fertility options on her own make an appointment with a fertility specialist to do an evaluation and see what plan is most suitable for her.