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You're close to 30 and not in a relationship. Would you consider this?

Jeannette
Jeannette Francis.

By JEANNETTE FRANCIS

Jeanette’s story will feature on SBS 2’s show The Feed this evening at 7.30pm. 

My father has been trying to convince me to buy property for several years now. Two weeks ago he called with a friendly suggestion that I should open a First Home Savers Account – one that earns you high interest on a capped amount of money each year, until you’re ready to use it to buy a home.

I declined with a very well thought out and reasoned response – I don’t want to be an adult. My father – long skilled in the art of diplomacy – replied, “You don’t have to be an adult now. But if you want to later on, the option will be there.”

I should stress, I’m 28-years-old and for roughly 15 of those years I’ve been waiting to become an adult, to feel ready to embrace the world of responsible co-habitation, lawns, capri pants, murder-mystery shows on the ABC and the ultimate signifier of adulthood; responsibility for other human beings or children as they’re better known.

It hasn’t quite happened yet – which is fair given I’m still in my 20’s – but rather than being concerned it won’t (as many I know are) I’m slightly more concerned it will.

See I’m afflicted with what my sister has diagnosed to be, “Selfish Arsehole Syndrome,” an allegedly common condition known to exist in men and women aged between 25 and 35 who thoroughly enjoy the relatively carefree lives they lead. I’m not saying I bear no responsibility for anything, I’m just saying that on a scale of things, I’m carrying the burden okay.

This not only leaves me with an inflated sense of self but with an increasingly well-honed ability to assert the merits of my lifestyle to naysayers, mainly my mother, who manages to illicit a reluctant summation most times we speak of why I rather like my life and why I intend to prolong it in its current state for as long as humanly possible.

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Now, here’s where matters get complicated because as it turns out some thing’s are not humanly possible after a certain age and while co-habitation, lawns, kapri pants and ABC murder mysteries will – with any luck – be around for a long time, one’s ability to bear children will not.

And so it was amid this dawning reality and the ever-increasing number of babies usurping my Facebook feed, that a discussion about fertility was inevitably had among colleagues in the office, an office – I should stress – where one from a team of 15 is over 35 and has children.

It didn’t take long before the discussion turned to the topic of egg freezing. Would you or wouldn’t you? How much does it cost, what’s involved, what’s the likelihood of having a baby later, and so on and so forth. On the whole we concluded two things; that we should do a feature on it that answers all these questions and that being in our late 20s, early 30s we didn’t have to think seriously about freezing eggs just yet.

We were wrong.

According to IVF Australia fertility specialist, Professor Bill Ledger, late 20s early 30s is the best time to think about egg freezing, especially if you’re not planning to have children anytime soon. “I would say if people are not in a stable relationship by 30 and think it’s not likely to happen for a few more years, consider freezing your eggs as an alternative to being disappointed at 42 or 43,” says Professor Ledger.

In recent years medical advances in the technique of vitrification (snap freezing) have meant a higher egg survival rate. So if you’ve managed to freeze 12 eggs before the age of 35, you have a better than a 50 per cent chance of having a baby later on. And that’s a conservative statistic according to Professor Ledger. Compare this to a woman who freezes her eggs after the age of 40. She only has a 7 per cent chance of having a child.

While the science is still emerging, Professor Ledger says egg quality between the ages of 20 and 33 is generally stable. “If you look at success rates from IVF, they’re pretty much the same for a 25 year old as a 33-year-old, then the decline starts to happen,” he says. So whether you freeze your eggs at 26 or 32 it doesn’t make much difference apparently, the key is to freeze them before their quality diminishes, roughly around the age of 33.

I left my interview with the good professor with a furrowed brow and in the car on the way to my next shoot, I did a little maths. In five years I’ll be 33 and going off my current state of affairs, I would really rather not have children in the next five years but if egg-quality starts decreasing after the age of 33 did that mean egg-freezing could be a reasonable option for me? Somehow it made sense and yet it sounded completely outrageous that I – of all people – would suddenly be thinking about freezing my eggs as though it was an actual, viable thing when I wasn’t thinking seriously about children at all and frankly never really had.

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Egg freezing Well that’s the catch-22 – it turns out the best age to freeze eggs happens to be the very age where – for most women – children are the furthest things from their mind. It also happens to be the age where they’re most likely to be able to cough up between 8 to 12 thousand dollars for one round of egg harvesting (in some cases two or more rounds are needed.)

There isn’t a great deal of literature on the topic but as technologies continue to improve, so too will options and egg freezing is as much about having children later in life as it is about having the option of having children later in life. Most women – even if they’re not entirely committed to the former – are certain they want the latter.

One prominent egg-freezing advocate calls it a way to attain, “the most powerful gender equaliser of all – the ability to control when we have children.” We’re a long way from finding out exactly what the societal repercussions of delaying the biological clock will be but the choice do so should be there – just like a First Home Savers Account in case one day you do want to become an adult.

http://youtu.be/EmA8GVuBHBY

Jeanette’s story will feature on SBS 2’s show The Feed on Monday July 22  at 7.30pm.

Jeannette Francis joined SBS as a cadet journalist in 2009 and has worked across SBS’s News and Current Affairs programs on TV, radio and online. Her reports for Dateline have included a look at The K-Pop Effect in South Korea, where the music scene is fuelling the popularity of plastic surgery, and the world of transgender children in the United States, Crossover Kids.

Have you ever considered freezing your eggs? Has anyone had it done?

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