Emma Roberts has revealed she froze her eggs before falling pregnant with her partner, fellow actor Garrett Hedlund, earlier this year.
The 29-year-old actor told Cosmopolitan: “A few years ago, I learned that I’ve had undiagnosed endometriosis since I was a teenager. I always had debilitating cramps and periods, so bad that I would miss school and, later, have to cancel meetings. I mentioned this to my doctor, who didn’t look into it and sent me on my way because maybe I was being dramatic?”
Endometriosis affects around 10% of women and occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places like the ovaries or fallopian tubes. It can cause debilitating cramps and can also contribute to infertility.
When Roberts was officially diagnosed, her doctor also recommended that she should freeze her eggs or “look into other options”.
“Just the thought of going through that and finding out, perhaps, that I wouldn’t be able to have kids… I did freeze my eggs eventually, which was a difficult process,” Roberts continued.
“When I found out about my fertility, I was kind of stunned. It felt so permanent, and oddly, I felt like I had done something wrong. ”
The UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has allowed the use of frozen eggs in fertility treatment in the UK since 2000. But one cycle of egg freezing can cost up to £8,000. A large sum to pay when the birth rate from freezing your eggs is 18%.
However, the data shows that 1,463 of egg freezing cycles were completed in 2017, compared to just 234 in 2010. According to the HFEA, the number of women freezing their eggs in Britain jumped by 523% between 2013 and 2018. This number is only set to increase as clinics have also reported a 50% rise in egg freezing enquiries during lockdown.
What does it mean to ‘freeze your eggs’?
Egg freezing has become more common in the last decade or so, as women tend to wait longer to start a family. The Mayo Clinic says egg freezing could be an option for women who don’t want to get pregnant now, but might want to at a later date.
Egg freezing is often recommended to women who have a condition that can affect fertility, who need treatment for cancer or anyone who wants to preserve their eggs now for future use.
Watch: Five friends who struggled to fall pregnant have babies within weeks of each other
How can women freeze their eggs?
Firstly, if this is something you’re considering then speak to your GP who can give you a full rundown of the options. Egg freezing is not normally available on the NHS unless you are having a medical treatment that could affect your fertility. So you’ll likely need to seek out a specialised clinic.
Once you’re booked in, the process will typically take between two to three weeks. You’ll then start IVF which includes two weeks of hormonal injections to help stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The eggs are generally collected while the woman in under general anaesthetic and up to 15 eggs can be collected.
Instead of being injected with sperm, as would happen with IVF, the eggs are added to the freezing solution and the eggs are then stored for up to a decade.
What happens when you want to use your frozen eggs?
Once ready to use, the eggs are thawed and injected with sperm from a partner or a donor. If the egg is successfully fertilised, the embryo is then transferred to the womb in the hope it will lead to pregnancy.
How much does freezing your eggs cost?
Only a select few are eligible for egg freezing on the NHS, like cancer patients about to start chemotherapy. Most women looking to freeze their eggs will need to pay for it themselves, which can be costly as it’s unregulated and private clinics set the price.
If you are looking to freeze your eggs, you should budget around £8,000 for the entire process.
This includes £3,350 for the collecting and freezing process, £1,500 for the hormone injections, £350 a year to have your eggs stored and £2,500 for the thawing and embryo transfer process.
When should you freeze your eggs?
According to HFEA, age is the most important factor in success when it comes to freezing your eggs. For example, if a woman freezes her eggs before she is 35 she’s more likely to conceive than if she tried to become pregnant naturally over the age of 40.
However, you’ll need to consider the age you will want to become pregnant, as the eggs can only be stored for 10 years. So if you’re getting your eggs frozen at 25, you’ll need to use them by the time you’re 35.