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Monday, 04 Jan 2021

What is the Emotional Impact of Freezing your Eggs?

By Dr Becky Spelman

Balancing a career with aspirations to have a family has never been easy for women, who have to deal with structural sexism in the workplace, who may wish to wait for “Mr Right” before having a child, and who may be anxious about their biological clock if they are getting older.

Today, growing numbers of women are opting to have some of their eggs extracted and frozen while they are still young, so that they have a “back-up” plan in case things haven’t fallen into place when they would like. That way, the theory goes, they will be able to defrost an egg, and have it fertilised and implanted when they are ready to have a baby. Some modern companies have even offered this service to women as a perk of the job.

However, the emotional load associated with freezing your eggs can be considerable. The hormone treatment associated with harvesting eggs is not easy on the body or mind, and women undergoing the procedure are generally expected to get on with life as normal, even as their bodies are subjected to a hormonal storm. The side-effects of freezing your eggs can be likened to a particularly severe case of pre-menstrual tension, including bloating, sore breasts, mood swings, tearfulness, and anxiety relating to the fear that they are not being as rational as usual.

Women also find themselves grappling with unexpected feelings of resentment that they are going through a sometimes painful and always invasive process to have their eggs removed, because their employer expects them to give their all to the company, while their male peers are often reluctant to commit to a relationship.

They can also experience anxiety about the eggs, even when they have been extracted and cryogenically frozen. What if something goes wrong? What if they try to have the eggs implanted later on, and it doesn’t work? IVF has extremely high failure rates, so there are never any guarantees.

Some women worry that, if their company offers them egg freezing as a possibility, and they do not take up the offer, they will be penalised for not putting their career before all else. This is not an unreasonable concern: countless women complain of being side-lined and not promoted if they are of childbearing age, because of concerns that they will get pregnant and take their eye off the ball.

While modern technology offers us many fantastic breakthroughs in the area of medicine, and perhaps above all in the field of reproductive medicine, it is important to be prepared before going into freezing your eggs. The procedure is often represented as easy, but for many women it is anything but.

While egg freezing can be a fantastic opportunity for those women who have explored the option thoroughly and know what it is all about, it is not a panacea and does not solve all of the issues around the tricky matter of choice and assisted reproduction.

WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?

For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.

REFERENCES

Brown, Eliza; Patrick, Mary (2018). “Time, Anticipation, and the Life Course: Egg Freezing as Temporarily Disentangling Romance and Reproduction”. American Sociological Review. 83 (5): 959–982

Petropanagos, Angel; Cattapan, Alana; Baylis, Françoise; Leader, Arthur (2015-06-16). “Social egg freezing: risk, benefits and other considerations”. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal. 187 (9): 666–669.

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