"Honestly, egg freezing is a great thing to consider when you want to have children in the future. Sometimes there are certain circumstances—like fertility problems or simply wrong timing—that affect our family-planning process. But thanks to procedures like this there is more flexibility."
Name: Vanesa Schaller
Location: Toronto, Canada
Bird&Be Product: The Powers for Females
Best piece of advice: Make sure you feel comfortable with your fertility clinic or person you chose to do the egg freezing process with as sometimes, you can feel like a number. I was lucky I found a place where I felt empathy and care throughout the process.
How did you learn about egg freezing and what made you decide to pursue it?
Seven years ago my husband and I went through fertility treatment and had twin boys. I thought we would only have two kids and was happy with that. Fast forward to a few years ago, I started having very heavy periods, which I thought was normal. After consulting my OBGYN, he thought I had PCOS but the testing didn’t confirm this. My periods were so heavy that I became anemic, so after talking to my doctor, we concluded there were a few different options for treatment. One was to undergo a hysterectomy, which would mean I would never be able to carry children again, plus I would have menopausal symptoms. An alternate plan was to have an IUD inserted to control my periods. (At this point, my doctor also realized that my uterus was getting thicker and tested me for cancer, which was, fortunately, negative.) Immediately after I stepped out of the office, I started crying because I never thought this could happen to me.
After speaking to my husband, we realized that we might still want more children in the future and decided to keep my uterus. We spoke to the doctor again and we created a plan that consisted of first having an IUD inserted to control my periods and get my uterine lining under control and also to allow me to get stronger and heal from the anemia. After a few months we moved to Toronto, and we decided next steps with a fertility clinic. After some testing, our new doctor informed us that there was a male-factor issue affecting us as well and so we decided that our best course of action was to do egg freezing since I was already in my late thirties, while we continued treating my heavy periods, anemia and uterine lining.
Was there anything that held you back initially?
I was honestly a bit anxious about the procedure as I knew that sometimes there can be overstimulation of the ovaries and I’m also not a fan of injections.
Did you have a pre-egg freezing plan?
I have had two egg retrievals and both were different. The first one, I was taking over-the-counter prenatal vitamins, tried to eat healthier and incorporated movement. For the second one, I prepared myself much better. I switched prenatals (and actually took The Powers for Females), started to have a cleaner diet, kept up with my daily movement and also worked to manage my stress by practicing breath work.
What was the process like?
The retrievals were different from the start, including the money aspect: I had one funded and one paid out of pocket. When I started the process I was confident that I was going to be able to get funding right away, but I actually had to wait a year to get funding. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the process myself so given my age we decided to move forward with the treatment. When I reflect on it now, the first procedure was awful for me and looking back there was a lot of anxiety which might have affected the outcome.
For me, injections were the easiest part but the retrieval was terrible. I was semi-conscious when they did the procedure, and I was super sore after it. I remember having difficulty walking and leaning on my husband. We went home and I had a lot of pain, as my fears came true because I had Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). I was also not able to pee and since it was the weekend I ended up having to go to the ER because we were concerned I would need a urinary catheter (and after seven hours in the ER, I didn’t end up needing one).
After that, I honestly thought I never wanted to do this again because the experience was traumatizing for me. I ended up with 11 mature eggs that were frozen. The second time around, we decided to finally make some embryos with those frozen eggs and ended up with three blastocysts ready for transfer. Sadly none of these embryos implanted.
My husband was ready to give up and felt bad because of how difficult the procedure was for me. Then a few months ago, I finally got an email that we were finally greenlighted for funding. It's funny because I remember that when we first started this journey my husband was the one that was more excited and sort of wanted it more and in the end it was me that decided that I had to see it through and decided to give it one last shot.
My second egg retrieval couldn't have been more different. Like before, the injections were easy for me to handle. Then, on the day of the retrieval everything went super smooth. I remember coming out and taking a quick nap after. Then my husband picked me up from the clinic, we went home and I had no discomfort. I was a bit bloated and had very minimal cramping. The next day I felt better like nothing had happened. And funny enough I ended up having 22 eggs retrieved and 20 of those were mature and frozen.
How did you feel about the process?
The first time I was very anxious about the whole process and now I wonder if all that anxiety and stress affected the process and the quality of the eggs. The second time it was honestly a breeze. I even remember telling the doctor prior to the second retrieval that I was feeling super confident and stress-free somehow.
What surprised you about the process?
How long you have to wait to see a doctor and how supplements and lifestyle changes can have such a huge impact in the final outcome
What do you wish you would have known before embarking on your egg freezing journey?
I wish I had more information on supplements to improve quality and lifestyle changes that can help better prepare for the process.
What is your plan for your frozen eggs?
As soon as the time is right we will be making embryos.
What do you want other people to know who are contemplating egg freezing?
Research and inform yourself about it. Make sure you feel comfortable with your fertility clinic or person you chose to do the process with as sometimes you can feel like a number. I was lucky I found a place where I felt comfortable and felt empathy and care throughout the process from everyone from nurses to doctors. Also, make sure to have a strong support system rallying around you for those hard days along the journey.
How has freezing your eggs influenced your outlook on family planning and parenthood?
I have spoken to many people about this and honestly it is a great thing to consider when you want to have children in the future. Sometimes there are certain circumstances like fertility problems or simply wrong timing that affect our family-planning process. But thanks to procedures like this there is more flexibility and options.
I just wish it was more affordable. I remember one friend telling me she was considering freezing her eggs but not being able to afford it and since she didn't have any medical issues or known fertility problems she wasn't able to apply for funding. It was frustrating—the younger you are, the better quality your eggs are and the higher the chances of success. But she didn’t qualify for funding because of that. Hopefully in the future we will have more support financial support.