THE retrieval of eggs and subsequent in vitro fertilisation (IVF) attempts can cause distress and relationship breakdowns for women who have their frozen eggs years in advance.
Curtin University research fellow, sexologist and counsellor Amanda Lambros said women who had frozen eggs to focus on their careers often faced difficulties conceiving once they decide to start a family.
Typically, women who freeze their eggs are single, in their 30s, career focussed and financially independent and take the step with the intention to implant later in life .
Ms Lambros said women used the procedure to safeguard eggs and ensure they are healthy.
“At the point they get frozen they are very healthy, viable eggs and less likely to have genetic mutations,” she said.
“Another plus is that any trauma or damage caused to your body means those eggs still remain viable, and lastly if something like ovarian or uterine cancer occurs your eggs can be used for a surrogate.”
Egg retrieval can cost up to $15,000 and there is no guarantee of the number of eggs a doctor can collect, but that is where the problems can begin.
“Once your eggs are frozen then the problem becomes retrieving them,” she said.
“A fertility clinic usually requires a couple to try and conceive naturally for a year before and if that doesn’t work then they will offer eggs.”
According to Ms Lambros, this is where problems can begin; often women who freeze eggs are expert planners and are used to achieving their goals, and not conceiving becomes a trigger that can damage relationships.
“Type A personalities usually take it hard when they can’t conceive, because (typically) they plan (and) when they can’t achieve what they think they should be able to,” she said.
“These are usually controlling people who become derailed when they can’t achieve what they want.”
Ms Lambros said she often met couples who were unprepared for the costs of IVF and the stress that came with it.
“In most cases women don’t get pregnant on the first round… it is usually around the fifth and so you are looking at upwards of $20,000,” she said.
“I tend to have couples whose relationships are being totally torn apart by trying to conceive…It does become a secondary issue, when you go to use your frozen eggs and you don’t get pregnant the first time.”
Ms Lambros said in extreme cases women were unable to fall pregnant naturally, or with the eggs they had frozen.
She urged families to be supportive of women’s choices.
“I think it’s support that makes a difference, some people see it as the right decision but the flip side is that when they get to implanting they have repeated failed attempts and end up with thoughts of ‘what if?’” she said.