pregnancy

'I'm 26 and single. And I'm already considering IVF.'

"What are you even doing here?" the fertility specialist asked begrudgingly during my first appointment. She had a point. I was 26, single and using birth control. I wasn’t even trying to get pregnant – yet. 

Why on earth was I attending an infertility appointment?

I’ve heard many people’s stories of infertility through friends, TV and podcasts over the years. I even spent a year interning in a fertility lab, watching couples walk into the lab every day, struggling to conceive. 

It didn’t hit home until I caught up with an interstate relative who I had not seen for over a year thanks to COVID. She had been secretly trying to get pregnant for years; I had no idea. It made me worry about my own chances of conceiving. 

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Like most millennials, my journey for more information started on the internet which told me to order an AMH test. An Anti-Mullerian Hormone test is a relatively cheap and accessible blood test which can indicate a woman’s ovarian reserve. 

My GP told me I was the fifth person to ever ask her for one. My result was lower than we both anticipated so I took the test again with a similar result. I’m lucky enough not to have any health problems but despite being her fifth patient with AMH results, she had never seen a score as low as mine. Not knowing what to do, she referred me to a fertility specialist.

"So, tell me why you are here again?" the specialist repeated sternly, secretly convinced I was just another hypochondriac wasting her time. Her frown turned into a gape when she looked at my low AMH results. Then into one of panic when I didn’t have any of the chronic conditions which would have easily explained my low egg count. 

After some expensive – and uncomfortable – tests. The specialist confirmed my ovarian reserve was in the bottom 10 per cent for people my age. I was 26, but I had the same number of eggs as most women in their late thirties.  

There’s nothing fun about being told your chances of conceiving naturally sit at about five per cent. It’s hard to keep your emotions in check in front of the doctor. It’s even harder to control afterward when you’re sitting alone in the parking lot.

Read more: 'We thought it was going to be easy': A queer couple's IVF journey.

In short, the doctor gave me two options. The offer to freeze my eggs or to start trying for a family sooner. I need to hedge my bets on what could be the biggest gamble of my life; having children.

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If I was a little older and already trying – and failing – to have a baby, I would jump straight on the IVF path. But I am not. I haven’t even tried to conceive naturally, why am I even thinking about freezing and IVF?

There’s a lot of moving parts and numbers to crunch when making this decision. Studies show, women with just low AMH levels do not always struggle to conceive, after all it only takes one good egg to have a baby.

I am also basing my decision on low AMH levels alone, which doesn’t always produce a complete picture of infertility. Unfortunately, birth control can produce false results for other hormonal tests and it would take several months of going off birth control to get good results.

Also, it’s really hard to consider my chances of conceiving, without actually trying to conceive. I could get pregnant the first month of trying. I could waste years failing to get pregnant. Time I would rather not waste.

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Then there’s going through the entire egg collection process. Which means dedicating a whole month to prodding myself with injections, going on a hormonal rollercoaster and a hospital trip to collect the eggs. 

Egg collection can be an emotionally and physically draining process, I get tired just thinking about it. Not every egg harvested is viable. Worst of all, with my low count, the doctor suggested it would take me at least two cycles of high dosage fertility drugs – with heavy side effect – to get to the optimal goal of 20 viable eggs. Hell to the no.  

Then there is the money factor, without insurance and add on costs, it can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 to complete an egg freezing cycle. As I look at the balance of my European holiday savings account, I know I would much rather be soaking up some Mediterranean sun than injecting myself for egg harvesting.

But every time a nearby stranger’s baby gives me a gummy smile in a café, my ovaries clench a little harder. I know I want children and at 26, it’s going to be sooner than later. 

To freeze or not to freeze? That is the question.

This whole fertility exploration has made my world spin, I am not even trying to conceive, and it hurts. Whilst I sit here deciding which decision I would regret more; wasting $10k on egg freezing to conceive naturally or start the IVF process all over again in my 30s, there is one thing I don’t regret; learning about my egg count now.

I’m glad I know what my fertility levels are now with my best years ahead of me. 

Instead of being five years down the track, wondering why I can’t get pregnant. The craziest thing about fertility, it's an invisible condition, no amount of yoga and kale smoothies will 'fix' your fertility. 

Which is why I am raising awareness; even if you are not trying to conceive, go get some basic tests done. 

So, you have heaps of time to figure out what you truly want. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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