Ange (USA): My journey to egg freezing
Ovums on Ice- Live at Madison Garden:
I recently attended Google Launchpad’s Female Founders Summit and it was evidently clear that my career ambitions were oblivious to my biological clock. Thankfully, we are developing into a society where I don’t necessarily have to choose: technology has facilitated some time control, and society is starting to lift the stigma- so why not? I had a wonderful experience from start to finish, and what I consider to be a successful egg retrieval, and here’s my story.
Common opinion and research says the magic number of eggs to freeze is 20 - at least in my age range (I’m 37). So: twenty it is. That’s what I was aiming for, period. During my first ultrasound, my doctor counted 20 follicles!! I was ELATED. I technically had the potential to extract all eggs needed in one go - it was music to my ears and my wallet. As an entrepreneur and cofounder of a startup, I was not in the financial position to do this multiple times. I was, forgive the pun, literally and figuratively putting all of my eggs in one basket.
Fertility Diet or Just Living in LA Too Long?
I went on a six week diet to get my body in optimal health for my eggies: no alcohol, no gluten, no dairy. Prenatal vitamins and supplements, some the size of horse pills, were added to my daily regime as well. My boyfriend (yes, it is possible to be in a committed relationship, and still want to invest in a “fertility insurance policy.” We’ll get into that later...), who has been so supportive, offered to go on the “fertility diet’ with me in solidarity (I know. SWOON.). We set out on our six week mission of hangriness and hormones - God help us all. ** BONUS: from the diet and the supplements, my skin has been glowing, my hair is finally growing out, and we both lost weight! I lost about five pounds, he lost 20..! I KNOW. So annoying.
Not gonna lie, it took a hot minute to adjust. As an Asian-American growing up on Asian cuisine, cutting out dairy was a no-brainer. I mean I was craving brie 24-7, but I found no difficulty in identifying dairy and therefore cutting it out. Gluten, however, proved much more difficult. I was constantly Googling if things contained gluten - for instance, soy sauce! It was the opposite for my boyfriend, who is Caucasian - he had a harder time adjusting for dairy. It wasn’t until I was invited on a fitness influencer retreat at a secluded Malibu ranch, where I realized just how restrictive this diet was. A private chef prepared a vegetarian feast, specifically geared towards health, wellness, and fitness influencers, in LOS ANGELES, and yet I, the girl who chugs Coca Cola and consumes shameful amounts of junk food, was the “obnoxious’ one at the table with my dietary needs. Vegetarians could, after all, have cheese, creme fraiche, risotto, butter, chocolate, and all of the other fun stuff I wasn’t allowed. It was truly a lightbulb moment of how careful I had to be, which prompted at-home cooking for the remainder of the time. We actually loved it- we experimented with new recipes and thankfully, there are so many blogs and options for diet-specific cooking. I did, however, catch him during a moment of weakness. There was a crumpled-up Snickers wrapper and I waved it in front of his face like “WHAT. IS. THIS?!!” Joan Crawford level cray. I was just so very hangry.
Let’s Talk Brass Tax
What I am MOST proud of during this process is not the diligence of the diet, or my bravery towards administering my own shots, but finding the loopholes for financial relief. Since my insurance does not cover this procedure, it was all out of pocket - any savings were greatly appreciated. Although I was price sensitive, I did not let it dictate who I chose as a doctor if I felt that the fit was right, which it was. My doctor, Dr. Zouves of Zouves Fertility Center, was highly recommended by a friend of mine, who had knew women who froze their eggs with him. I am HUGE on personal referrals.
It is no secret that a lot of tech companies, such as Apple, Google, etc., are starting to incorporate reproductive benefits in their health plans: they work with a company called Progyny Benefits- Dr. Zouves is one of their providers. It comforted me to know that he had worked with those in my network of peers. I found that he and his staff were extremely patient, informative, thorough, and caring. I truly felt cared for. Sure, there may or may not be doctors out there with lower pricing, equally successful retrieval rates, but once there is a doctor-patient/clinic-patient bond, you don’t mess with that formula.
What was remarkable was that his clinic offers financial relief for patients in need. I didn’t think there was any harm in applying, sent in my paperwork, and received the best call ever: they were rewarding me 25% off the operation and clinic-specific services! Meaning, they couldn’t discount medications, bloodwork, or anything that was beyond their control. I was ELATED. Cryobank and medications would be the next big ticket items on my list. Some fertility centers have their own cryobank in-house- this is usually the case for major fertility centers. My doctor does not- so it was up to me to do some research and find a cryobank that I’d like to transfer my eggs to. His clinic gave me a list of 3 cryobanks that they usually work with, and after a LONG time on the phone with each of them, and my excel sheet analysis, I made my decision. The three locations were California (locations in Bay Area and SoCal), Nevada, and Texas. The rates weren’t wildly different, but there was definitely a range that I think probably matched real estate prices for real rent haha. I ended up choosing Nevada: it didn’t hurt that they were the most price effective, but the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful over the phone (it was the most seamless experience), and I thought to myself, NV hasn’t had any natural disasters recently (just last year, CA and TX were affected by fires and hurricanes, respectively).
Now medications, which were probably the most painful expense of them all. Again, Dr. Zouves gave me a list of recommended pharmacies - either because they have an account/relationship with them or knew they had some financial relief programs. I called each one and got quotes for all the meds. I also made sure to ask if there was any pricing difference for his patients, which there was! ** PSA: some meds have 2 manufacturers you can choose from, so one pharmacy might have a better relationship with a certain manufacturer., which will affect pricing. He gave me options for a few med alternatives to Frankenstein-together an optimized list. Two pharmacies worked with financial relief programs so I moved forward with them and sent in an application. It could be anywhere from 5-10-25-50-75% off (!!!! Yes 75%) on certain meds, pending approval. And again, some of these meds were $980 for ONE and I need like 3. So... Every bit helps. Manufacturers also had their own coupons for $100-$300 off so I got those as well. One pharmacy approved me for 5%, the other approved for 25%! I went a step further, APPEALED, and provided more evidence of why I should be eligible for a higher bracket. AND IT WORKED!! 50% off!! Now, it applied to certain meds not all on the list. But still!! A blended average of 35% !!
**The one thing that absolutely SUCKED, is that my follicles weren’t at the optimal size by the time I used up my meds, so I had to order an extra 2 days’ worth, totaling about $675. It was probably the most painful line item, because I had been so careful with the planning and budgeting.
When all was said and done, I saved about 28% off of my entire bill. Not too shabby!
Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots!
I won’t even go into depth about these because I still shudder at the thought of them. Just know that I am a WIMP when it comes to needles - I literally have to lie down when I get my blood drawn. But if I could do it myself, then literally anyone can. I did kind of feel badass mixing the meds up and drawing the syringe. It’s sort of terrifying to think that us mere mortal patients were allowed that kind of responsibility, to be honest....
I had warned EVERYONE that a hormone-enraged monster was coming, and to be prepared! Surprisingly, she’s not so bad! At least that’s what I heard.. But perhaps it’s because my baseline is already pretty cray? I asked my bf for his honest opinion and he said the diet affected my mood more than the hormones lol #snickersgate.
The Final Reveal
Happy to report that I had, what I would consider, a very successful operation. On cloud 9 - STILL! I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Doc and his nursing staff. It makes such a huge difference: I’ve talked to others who have gone to places where they felt like a number in a factory. Again, I highly recommend Dr. Zouves and his practice.
I went in there thinking I had 19 follicles (oh yea, it went down from 20 during my last ultrasound. I was bummed). APPARENTLY you can have follicles hiding behind each other. I came out with 26 eggs extracted!!! It took another day for the final count of which ones were mature and viable for freezing, but the likelihood of this being a “one and done” surgery was pretty high. Remember: THE GOAL WAS 20.
I got the phone call the next day, while I was at my BFF’s baby shower (ironically), and 19 EGGS Y’ALL!! I know my goal was 20 but this was close enough not to go through the process again. I immediately felt relief of “time burden.”
Bun in the Oven vs. Eggs in the Freezer:
When am I going to use them? Not sure - and honestly, I hope I never have to. 50% of women don’t even use their frozen egg reserve. PS Did you guys catch the DOUBLE TRAVESTY that happened on 3/12/18?? Not one but TWO fertility centers with cryobanks for eggs had malfunctions!! Thousands were affected. BUT! To add insult to injury - one of the Medical Directors said that there are a large number of the 500 patients whose eggs and embryos stored at their facility are going to be "people who probably won’t use them anyway.” (ABC News) Umm.... NOT THE POINT BRO. I get livid just thinking about that as an actual response to folks who are victims of this. We put our bodies through so much for these fertility treatments - we’ll never be the “age of original extraction” again - EVER. Some of those women went through multiple rounds for those eggs, or might be at the end of their reproductive window. I mean, no amount of money can buy back that time. Still mad.
So what I THINK is going to happen is this: I hope that I conceive my first child with my future hubby naturally. Not sure how close I am to achieving that but I’m speaking it into existence. But I think by child #2 (maybe even 3..?) I may need to lean on my reserve. AGAIN - I went into this as purely my fertility insurance strategy, hoping that it would not be my Plan A. But thinking a few steps ahead, that in case my Plan A didn’t work out, this would be a decent Plan B.
The Last Word/My “First of All” Finger:
I think some folks are confused that I'm electing to do this even though I'm not single. "Well, why don't you just get pregnant?"
A few thoughts about this. Contrary to popular belief, this isn't some "spinster" backup plan. It has nothing to do with "not getting a man." I, myself, am not ready to plan for a family right now and honestly, if I could have done this earlier, I would have: stopped the clock and had 25 year old eggies for when I'm ready.
Further, this is as much of a decision for the future father in that I'm not roping anyone into having a baby who's not ready to. Do I hope we conceive naturally? Of course - IVF is much more of an invasive procedure. About 50% of women end up not even using their frozen eggs. But this is my personal choice to take my mind off the clock and focus on other aspects of my life.
If you're single, married, starting something new, or WHATEVER- No judgement!!