October 2013 eNews
Is Egg Freezing Right for You?
An increasing number of women are delaying childbearing until later in life whether by personal choice or due to medical reasons they have no control over. However, fertility declines with age, especially after age 35, as part of the natural aging process. Unfortunately this cannot be reversed, but technology now exists that allows women to make a conscious decision and preserve their fertility until they are ready to have children. In essence, this offers a woman the ability to ignore her biological clock and focus on her career, find ‘Mr. Right’, or fight a life threatening illness.
Benefits include more time and flexibility to decide when to have a family, improved chances of conception with a woman’s own eggs in the future, and even a small modicum of power when facing a disease that could possibly render a woman sterile through treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiation. This predicts that a woman in her 40s would significantly improve her chances of a successful pregnancy if she were to use eggs that were frozen when she was in her 20s or 30s.
Not every woman is a good candidate for egg freezing. Diagnostic testing should be performed in the early part of the menstrual cycle including blood tests and a transvaginal ultrasound to assess ovarian reserve. Results are then reviewed by a reproductive endocrinologist and an individualized treatment plan made with the physician. Once a cycle is coordinated, a woman will take fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs in a single cycle. Frequent office visits are required over an 8 – 12 day period to monitor the progress and determine adjustments to the medication prior to scheduling the egg retrieval. The egg retrieval is an outpatient procedure done in the office under anesthesia and most women return to work or their normal activities the following day.
This advancement in medicine has brought new hope to those diagnosed with many different forms of cancer with the largest group being breast cancer patients. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month it is an extremely important area to increase knowledge of options for fertility preservation as 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Some may not have families yet or even be married, but they’re facing treatments that might not allow them to take that journey. This is where egg freezing can help take the pressure off and allow a woman to focus on the emotional and physical goal of getting well without having to worry about their future fertility. They can concentrate on getting through their cancer treatments knowing their eggs are safe and sound until they’re through the battle and ready to use them.
Many women think of egg freezing as an insurance policy that allows them to breathe a little easier and not regret the reasons they have to delay creating or adding to their family. While there are no guarantees that a frozen egg will lead to a future pregnancy and live birth, taking control and being proactive can increase a woman’s overall chances for a child later in life.
- Free Consults at GIVF through December 31, 2013: All new-patient office appointments will be free of charge through the end of this year. Call 703-698-7355 to schedule your free fertility consultation!
- “Healthy Habits to Survive the Holidays” seminar at 6:30pm in the third floor reception area of GIVF on Thursday November 14th . Come listen to a presentation by Carla Sidhu, R.D. Healthy refreshments will be served! RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
“We Were Looking For You Everywhere”
How to discuss donor-assisted conception
an interview with Phyllis Martin, LPC
For parents who conceived a child with the help of donor eggs or sperm, determining whether, when and how to disclose information to the child about their donor origins is a critical, and often highly emotional, decision. “Just don’t make the decision out of fear,” says Phyllis Martin, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Ms. Martin specializes in treating clients who are undergoing fertility treatment, including patients who are building their families with the help of donor egg or donor sperm and works closely with many GIVF patients.
Ms. Martin says the most common concern she hears from donor egg clients is fear of “maternal rejection” if the child knows they were conceived with the help of a donor. They worry that someday the child may say something like, “you’re not my real mother!” or “I wish you weren’t my mother!” Patients using donor sperm express similar concerns about how a child may deny the father.
Ms. Martin says these outbursts are typical of youngsters who are angry and pushing boundaries, but do not often represent their true feelings. She says her clients often recall expressing similar notions to their own mothers when they were teens themselves!
Parents who do not plan to tell their child about their donor-assisted conception should not tell anyone else, Ms. Martin says, “because once you have shared this information, you cannot control it and no one else should be telling your child his/her conception process but you.”
Parents who decide not to disclose should be ready with answers anyway, Ms. Martin advises, should the child find out inadvertently. “Don’t get caught off guard,” she says.
One key piece of advice that Ms. Martin gives parents who want to disclose is to “begin early and repeat often.” Research indicates that disclosing early and making it part of the child’s story from the beginning is a healthy approach. While Ms. Martin admits that talking to young children about where they came from is not always comfortable, she assures clients that the more they do talk about it, the more comfortable they will become with the words and the concept. Some parents may want to start practicing the story while the child is still an infant and can’t understand the words. This gives parents time to get the words right so that they say just what they mean. Ms. Martin notes, “It’s important to separate the pain (your story) from the gratitude (their story.)” “In fact”, she says, “If a mom or dad isn’t able to do that, it’s a red flag that it’s time to seek counseling to help them process their emotions.” So, how might that conversation go? If you are a parent who wishes to tell your child that he or she was conceived with the aid of a donor, here are some ways to begin the process:
Focus on the positive and on how happy you are to have the child:
- “We are so happy we have you. We were looking for you everywhere!”
- “We are so happy the doctor could help us because we needed help to have you.”
- “We were so sad because we thought you would never arrive, but then we found a doctor and a special person called a donor who helped us have you and that made us so happy!”
- “The day you were born was the happiest day of our lives. We had been waiting for you and hoping for you for so long.”
- “A nice ‘helper’ called a donor helped us have you.” (The parent should explain that a donor is someone who gives very important, very special things.)
- “An egg is a very special cell. Everyone in the world starts out in the same way: they need a special cell from the woman and a special cell from the man. Mommy got the special cell she needed to have you from a nice woman who helped her. She is called a donor.”
Use the correct terms from the outset.
- Your child will take his or her cues from you. The child will not think that words such as “egg” or “sperm” are embarrassing if you’re not embarrassed. If you are uncomfortable, they will believe they should not discuss the topic. To make your child comfortable, incorporate the role of the donor as part of their story, and the story of your family.
- When children do ask questions about their history, encourage them to elaborate: “What do you mean?” “What do you think?”
Most importantly, normalize your family’s history.
- Explain to your child that families are built in many ways, (through adoption, step-parenting, donor egg, donor sperm, unassisted conception, etc.), because it is important for children to feel that their family was built in a normal way. “Sometimes mommies and daddies have to go to the doctor to get help having a baby, sometimes the baby comes on its own. Sometimes mommies and daddies bring their babies home from the hospital, sometimes they bring their babies home from another country or an adoption agency. Sometimes they need help from a donor.” There are many types of families in the world, but what is most important to children is love and belonging.
- Hearing the story of what you did to have them lets children know how much you wanted them. Knowing how much they are loved and wanted is something that every child needs, regardless of the circumstances in which they were conceived.
Phyllis Martin, LPC, leads groups and provides individual counseling at GIVF. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please click here
The Genetics & IVF Institute (GIVF) regularly publishes an informative newsletter featuring the latest infertility news and developments. The newsletter is sent electronically via email. To subscribe, click here.