Egg freezing moves into the mainstream as more women search for ways to buy themselves more time. ECHELON gives you our editor’s personal account of her egg freezing experience.
Hong Kong is the kind of city that can trick your mind into thinking you’ll be young forever. There is always something to do, somewhere to be and people to meet—and we all agree that this city has a unique kind of electric energy seldom found elsewhere, along with a plethora of exciting career opportunities. These are just a few of the factors that have contributed to Hong Kongers choosing to delay settling down.
However, it seems our body hasn’t yet evolved to keep up with our lifestyle and choices, and with the pandemic putting our life on hold for a few years, there has been a surge in women’s interest in preserving their fertility through egg freezing.
Having finished the process myself this past year, and having received many enquiries about it since, I wanted to be open about my experience to give women an overview of what to expect from the process in order to make an informed decision. You can also read my article in ECHELON’s latest issue to understand the reasons why women (and men) are choosing to buy themselves more time.
See: The Luxury of Buying Time With Egg Freezing
Here is a breakdown of what to expect from egg freezing:
I chose to go through the Women’s Clinic in Central, reputable for the comforting environment and patient and communicative doctors. I was referred to Dr. Grace Kong by a friend who had gone through the process just a year earlier.
During my initial consultation, I was made aware of the potential side effects from the hormonal fluctuations caused by injections, such as headaches, nausea, bloating and mood swings. I was also told to avoid intense workouts—which goes against my daily routine—but that I didn’t need to stop working out altogether. Being familiar with my environment helped me determine where to go and what to do to still feel a sense of normalcy while ensuring my body wasn’t too strained.
Timing is important during the egg freezing process. Not only do you have to start on the second or third day of your menstrual cycle, but you also have to plan to go in every two or three days to get a blood test and ultrasound. The injections are helping the ovaries produce multiple eggs, instead of just the one egg women normally produce during each cycle. The more eggs you are able to retrieve, the more likely you are to have a live birth. During the process, you will see the follicles (a sac that contains one egg each) grow. The process usually takes about two weeks, depending on the rate the follicles are growing at.
Everyone reacts differently to the hormones but I was lucky enough to have limited side effects during the injection phase, which lasted about 10 days. While I didn’t experience mood swings or nausea, one thing that was constant was how tired I felt. I felt bound to the neighbourhoods which were within a relatively short walking distance—even getting on any public transportation took all the energy out of me—and I slept nine to 10 hours every night.
I limited large social events, ate a balanced diet, avoided alcohol, and mixed in light hikes with light strength training. I didn’t do any workouts that would require my body to twist to avoid the possibility of contorting the follicles, which would be quite painful and could require surgery.
The idea of injecting yourself can be daunting. But I assure you, coming from someone who had always been scared of needles, it was surprisingly easy and painless, as the needle is very thin. I admit I wasn’t thrilled when we noticed a few follicles needed a boost and had to increase the dosage which required a second injection at night. But it is all over in just a minute. Injecting in an area that has a bit more fatty tissue around the belly button is the best way to avoid bruising.
Once the doctor declared that the follicles were ready, I administered the trigger shot at night and exactly 36 hours later I had to be in the surgery room, ready for the procedure. This was my first time in a surgery room and I was less worried about the invasive procedure itself, where the eggs get aspirated, but more worried that the anaesthesia wouldn’t work and that I would feel everything. Surely enough, one minute later I was asleep and woke up to the news that the doctor had successfully retrieved a good number of eggs, enough that I didn’t have to go through a second cycle.
It is in the post-procedure phase that I would say I felt the most uncomfortable. The procedure led to bloating and extreme fatigue, so working out was out of the question. I had to settle for walks by the harbour instead.
The main risk during the whole egg freezing process is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHS) which occurs in about 5% of women. This happens when you have a high number of eggs being retrieved and high oestrogen levels but everything is regulated during the doctor’s visits. Still, it was something I had to watch out for so the doctor monitored me every few days post-procedure. It wasn’t until 10 days later that I was able to go back to my regular routine.
Throughout the entire process, I made sure to keep stress levels at a minimum. I was grateful to have a support network that would check in on me, bring me treats and go for walks with me, as well as pick me up from the clinic post-surgery—the doctors do require that someone be there to bring you home. It was definitely a period of self-reflection, after all I was making a big life decision, and while I may have felt more vulnerable physically, I felt strong mentally.
The egg freezing journey may be emotionally and physically taxing, as well as expensive, but it’s a small price to pay for securing your future.