NIKKI Goldstein could feel the ticking getting louder and louder. That biological clock was omnipresent.
It was starting to affect the way she felt about dating men. It was playing on her mind to such an extent that something had to be done.
For the eminent sexologist, the decision to freeze her eggs was the easy part.
The 30-year-old doctor, who has no serious relationship prospects on the horizon, came to the decision to store her eggs last year, thereby potentially allowing her to conceive later in life than might be naturally possible.
She subsequently told of her experience in a 25-minute documentary.
Egg freezing has changed the way Nikki Goldstein dates. Photo: Chris Pavlich
Nikki came across egg freezing through research for her book #singlebutdating, and realised that the process would increase her chances to have kids — something that she dearly wanted, but wasn’t on the cards for her at that time.
At 30, Goldstein is considerably younger than most women looking for fertility solutions, thanks to the common but misguided belief that fertility is an issue for women later in life.
“It’s a really unfair biological clock. We’ve evolved as a society, and women can go out and have these amazing lives and independence and all sorts of things, but we’re still constrained biologically. We’ve got more options, but the clock is still there,” she candidly told The Daily Telegraph.
Egg freezing — a process whereby fertility specialists stimulate a women’s eggs, then collect and vitrify them before putting them in storage — was Nikki’s novel solution to the age-old problem.
The FSH hormone is injected into a woman’s ovaries to encourage follicles to develop into mature eggs, after which the eggs are collected by inserting a needle into one follicle at a time and then placed in storage.
‘We’re still constrained biologically. We’ve got more options, but the clock is still there’
Despite the clock’s inevitable ticking, Nikki said she faced substantial criticism from people holding on to the view that at 30, she has plenty of time left to have children.
“Women who aren’t in a relationship but want to have kids start to look at their options when they’re 35 or 36. But if you start then, you’re not going to get the quality and the quantity of if you’d started at 30. The biggest myth is that we don’t need to start looking at our options when we’re younger. Egg freezing is a partial security blanket, it’s not a foolproof plan.”
Dr. Mark Bowman, a fertility specialist at Sydney’s Genea clinic, agrees that while it might buy more time, egg freezing is not a guaranteed solution. “You couldn’t wait until 42 years of age then suddenly decide to have a baby. It’s quite a reasonable backup plan to have, but to have it then lead to a situation when women are unconcerned about reproducing until they’re in their 40s is very worrying.”
‘Egg freezing is a partial security blanket, not a foolproof plan’. Image: Chris Pavlich
And while it increases — rather than guarantees — her chances for children, Nikki said the security egg freezing her given her has changed the way she dates.
“Now, I’m looking at connections rather than having declining fertility weighing on my shoulders. I’ve felt this element of time. It’s not like a massive relief, but I feel a little bit better. Even if it’s just a 38 — 40% chance (the rate of the eggs’ survival), I still feel like there’s something extra there — I don’t feel like I’m freaking out as much,” she said.
At a cost of $7,000 for the first cycle and $6,000 for subsequent cycles — plus storage — the price tag for egg freezing is prohibitive for many women. Unlike IVF, which is subsidised by Medicare, the Australian government does not offset the high costs associated with egg freezing.
Although egg freezing has the potential to cut down on the number of women using IVF, Dr. Bowman was adamant when he told The Daily Telegraph the procedure shouldn’t be subsidized.
“Why should it be? The Medicare system is set up to treat illness, and provide a rebate for treating that. Infertility — not wanting to have a baby some day — is a medical condition, and that could be due to all sorts of medical problems.
“Being 30 and thinking you want to have a baby in your 40s is not a medical condition,” he added.
Given the inevitability of the ageing process, Nikki firmly believes that while it’s not suitable for all women, it should be more widely considered.
“I don’t think this is for everyone, especially given that it’s such a big financial issue. But this is something women should consider.”
Dr Bowman agrees. “It’s a reasonable backup plan in case you don’t meet the right person at the right time. That’s not to say you should stop trying to achieve that earlier. Women worry about having a career, a house, a mortgage.
“I accept all those things are hard to achieve at the same time, but society should make it easier, through having better parental leave and childcare facilities.
“That and old-fashioned relationship building — for some reason, that seems to be harder now than it was 20 years ago. Egg freezing is about just in case the plan doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean abandon the plan.”