For many of us, the ongoing pandemic has made us realise what’s important in life. As I’ve written about before for House 21, as a 35-year-old single woman when I was faced with the prospect of not being able to date and have the chance of finding someone, it was only then I realised how much I do want to settle down and start a family.
During the most recent lockdown I started to think seriously about freezing my eggs. I can’t exactly recall what first prompted me to start thinking about. I just remember having a bit of a realisation that instead of getting depressed about it and struggling to hold back the tears when talking to my friends about my prospects of starting a family, I actually had to do something about it and start planning to put myself in the best possible position to start a family in the future if I did find someone.
I then did what we all do when we need to find something out – I turned to Google, and did A LOT of research. I also started listening to the Freezing Time podcast by author Sophia Money-Coutts. Sophia basically had a similar epiphany to me during lockdown, and the podcast follows her journey to freeze her eggs. And it all reconfirmed what my first step was – HAVE A FERTILITY MOT.
While doing my research I realised while there were many factual posts out there, there weren’t many people like Sophia talking about what the process is actually like. We can all read about a topic and try to understand it, but there’s nothing like actually talking to a person who has been through it all, is there?
And that’s why I’m writing this post. To share my experience in the hope that one day it will help someone struggling with the decision to have their eggs frozen or not. Step One of the whole process is the Fertility MOT, and that’s where I hope I can help.
(Before you continue, please note I am not a medical professional and this post is based on my own experience of having a fertility MOT with the London Women’s Clinic. If you are considering a fertility MOT or freezing your eggs, please do your research and talk to a member of staff at your prospective clinic.)
What is a fertility MOT?
In a nutshell a female fertility test, or a Fertility MOT, will help you to understand your fertility status. It will help you understand your fertility and your ability to conceive.
Why have a fertility MOT?
Whether you are freezing your eggs or having IVF, the first few steps are the same – and step one is to have a fertility MOT to see what you are working with.
I wanted to have one as I am seriously considering freezing my eggs, and wanted to know the state of play when it came to my fertility, especially as I have suffered from PCOS. I wanted to know if my fertility was poor or below average for my age, because then I would have to make my mind up about what to do pretty sharpish.
During my research I also learnt that the age you are when the eggs are harvested has a bearing on their quality, and therefore the overall likelihood of any successful procedure. The number of eggs you produce is obviously important, but equally important is the quality – and that’s directly related to age. There are also other factors to consider, such as your lifestyle. With this in mind I wanted my fertility MOT sooner rather than later.
What is checked? What actually happens during a fertility MOT?
The fertility MOT I had consisted of three elements;
· A pelvic ultrasound scan
· A blood test
· A consultation with a fertility specialist.
The pelvic ultrasound is transvaginal. This means no scanner being rolled around on your stomach like you see on TV. Instead you lie on the bed with your legs in stirrups – very much like you would when getting a smear test – and you get what I can only describe as a probe or wand inserted *up there*. The pelvic ultrasound scan will check for any polyps, fibroids, cysts or other problems likely to affect fertility as well as evaluate your follicle count to assess your ovarian reserve.
It’s relatively painless and the nurse doing the procedure will usually talk you through what you are seeing on the screen. They do not go into too much detail though – this is what the follow-up consultation with the doctor is for.
The blood test is pretty standard, and is taken to measure a hormone known as Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), which will give an idea about your ovarian reserve. Again, you aren’t told anything on the day and have to wait for the results to come in.
My follow-up consultation was done a week later by video call (in a non-pandemic world these are usually done in person). The consultant talks through the findings, answers any questions you may have and then talks through potential next steps if you are thinking about egg freezing. You also get a written letter detailing what was discussed.
I will warn you this is the point where they have to warn you about everything that could go wrong with the egg freezing process, which can you take you aback. These people are experts, but there are still so many risks attached. You might not produce enough eggs during the process, the eggs could be of poor quality, some may not survive the freezing process… the list goes on. If there is anything that my research and the process of having the fertility MOT has taught me is that EGG FREEZING IS NOT AN INSURANCE POLICY. There are no guarantees. Yes, you are giving yourself a better chance of conceiving in the future, but there are no promises.
What does the fertility MOT NOT tell me?
There are a lot of things a fertility MOT does NOT tell you. The fertility MOT does not tell you about the quality of the eggs. It doesn’t give you a prognosis for your fertility in the future. It doesn’t tell you the amount of eggs you will produce if you decided to go through the egg harvesting and freezing process.
The fertility MOT is like the MOT for your car in that it is literally a snapshot in time. It tells you the state of your egg reserves now, but it makes no guarantees about the future. Yes, its unlikely to drop off a cliff face immediately after your appointment as the consultant explained to me, but at the same time its not an indicator of the future state of your fertility.
Luckily my fertility MOT showed my fertility is in a fairly normal and average state for someone my age, which was a relief. I’m glad I had the tests done as I feel that knowing the state of my fertility isn’t dire has taken off some of the pressure to make the decision about egg freezing straight away. I can start to think about planning it in for a few months time, and try to save a bit of extra money for it too.
If you have found yourself in a similar situation to me, and am thinking about egg freezing, I highly recommend getting a fertility MOT. Its given me both peace of mind and the evidence I need to plan for the future.
P.S. I chose not to speak about costs or where I had my fertility MOT done in this post, as clinic locations and costs will vary across the country, but please feel free to contact me on Twitter or Instagram (@hisdoryan) if you have any specific questions or just want to pick my brain about it all!