Egg freezing is still a relatively new option for women and couples wanting to delay pregnancy for a few years.
We wanted to know more about this fascinating procedure that – hopefully – allows younger women to freeze their eggs, then have babies, safely, at a later date.
So we sat down with Dr. Lorna Marshall of Pacific NW Fertility. Dr. Marshall, practicing specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, co-founded the clinic back in 2005 and has been helping couples start or build their families ever since.
In the first part of our conversation with Dr. Marshall, we learned more about the science and history of in vitro fertilization (commonly known as IVF), fertility medicine, and her own path to reproductive medicine. In part 2, we talked about the cultural changes that come with women having more family planning power.
The number of women seeking family planning options has “shot up through the roof,” Dr. Marshall says, at least in part because some large companies are offering egg freezing as a benefit of employment. How has that changed the demographic of women who are coming in to ask about egg freezing?
Dr. Marshall tells us about the realities of egg freezing. Big one: ya gotta do it when you’re young.
Or to movie stars. Dr. Marshall says not to be fooled by celebrities having babies in their late 40s or even early 50s; chances are they used donated eggs, not their own. It’s important to understand the realities of science and bodies, including their limitations.
When woman comes to the clinic, what happens? Dr. Marshall gives us the guided tour from testing to egg supply explanation to talking options when the results are in. Hear the process.
When it comes to fertility, it’s critical to manage expectations. Doctors may not be able to give a woman an answer on if she’ll be able to have a baby – there are just too many factors. Find out what impacts fertility and how docs work with women to best reach their goals.
Because the science of vitrification of eggs is still so new, Dr. Marshall says, some things just aren’t known yet, like, do frozen eggs have a – for want of a better term – “implant by” date? What stresses the egg? How long are vitrified eggs viable, and does the faster-freeze process put the eggs at risk?
Big tanks hold racks and racks of eggs, sperm, and embryos at the Pacific NW Fertility clinic, Dr. Marshall says. Some fertility clinics don’t store on site, but Dr. Marshall’s clinic has chosen to.
As you can imagine, egg freezing isn’t cheap. And many insurance companies won’t cover “elective” egg freezing. With egg retrieval and the medications it takes to do the process, women can expect to pay $14 – 15,000 for a single cycle. That’s not the cost of establishing a pregnancy, Dr. Marshall reminds us; just the process of freezing.
The best age for freezing eggs may be a woman’s 20s, which is not usually when women have the money to have their eggs frozen. The cost may be changing for cancer patients, at least, Dr. Marshall says, with some state legislatures working to make insurance companies cover fertility preservation. Will insurance ever cover truly elective fertility preservation?
We wanted to know what made Dr. Marshall want to come back to work every day. Her biggest reason probably won’t surprise you, but, she tells us, the growth and changes in the field have also kept her engaged in her work. “I’m in the heart of society, doing this,” she says. “Every day I’m successful, and every day I fail or feel like I fail.”
Because this procedure is still so new, it’s important to work with a clinic that’s actually made some babies from frozen eggs, Dr. Marshall says. There are lots of clinics that simply haven’t gotten to the “thawing and making babies” part yet. She lists some questions women should ask before choosing their clinic.
Like much about a woman’s body, her chances of making a baby may be wildly different from another woman’s chances, even at the same age, says Dr. Marshall. She shares with us some numbers of chances of success based on age of mom and number of eggs retrieved.
Would you consider freezing your eggs in order to delay pregnancy? Why or why not? We’d love to hear your thoughts; please share in the comments section, email us at email@example.com, or let us know on genneve’s Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, genneve’s closed Facebook group.
Next up: Dr. Susie Gronski, doctor of physical therapy and certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner. We talked with Dr. Susie about sexual wellness and enjoying your sex life, even post-menopause. Be sure to stay tuned to genneve.com for that conversation, or subscribe to genneve on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or Google Play, so you never miss an episode.
Back in May of 2017, we spoke with Dr. Lora Shahine of Pacific NW Fertility about fertility, in vitro fertilization, the stigma of miscarriage, and having hope.
The podcast was so popular, we returned to the clinic to talk with one of Dr. Shahine’s colleagues, Dr. Lorna Marshall, about another fertility preserving option: egg freezing. Once reserved for women about to undergo cancer treatments that would destroy their ovaries, egg freezing has become a popular way for healthy, younger women to delay pregnancy while pursuing a career.
Dr. Marshall is a practicing specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, serving the Seattle community for over 25 years. In this first part of our two-part podcast, Dr. Marshall spoke with us about the history and science behind freezing eggs. We’ve been freezing sperm for ages; why did it take so long to learn to freeze an egg, and what are the risks?
For the answer to that and other questions, listen up:
How does one become a reproductive endocrinologist/fertility specialist? For Dr. Marshall, her medical career paralleled the history of IVF, so it must have been destiny, she says. She shares her story of how her interest in fertility medicine grew as the science, ethics, and practice got more and more fascinating.
At first, fertility was uninteresting to her, Dr. Marshall says. The success rates were low, there wasn’t much doctors could do to help. Then IVF started to get really interesting…
Have patients changed over time? Not so much, Dr. Marshall says; they’re still “everyday folks.” But formerly couples came in only after they’d been trying for a very long time. Nowadays, couples are willing to try a more complicated route sooner. The big barrier to fertility treatments hasn’t changed: money.
In the past, Dr. Marshall says, fertilization specialists dealt almost entirely with couples who were infertile. Now, they have a whole separate clientele of women and couples who are looking for ways to postpone pregnancy.
We were curious to know what a woman who elects for fertility preservation looks like. Being able to elect for egg freezing is very new, Dr. Marshall says, only around since 2012. So we’re still discovering what women might want this option.
So what makes eggs so darn hard to freeze, compared to an embryo? Dr. Marshall explains how, previously, egg freezing was reserved for women who had received a cancer diagnosis and would likely be infertile after treatment. Such a small audience meant there wasn’t much opportunity to learn, and that slowed advancement of techniques.
Professional societies considered freezing eggs “experimental” until January 2013, finally lifting the designation because enough successes had been recorded. Four years later, egg freezing is still not advised as an elective procedure, just for cancer patients or for other special circumstances.
For anyone who might feel regret for not having chosen an egg-freezing option when they were younger, Dr. Marshall is quick to reassure them that it would not have been possible. “No regrets,” she says. All those fortunate celebrities getting pregnant at 50 probably aren’t doing it with their own eggs.
In part 2 of this conversation, Jill and Dr. Marshall talk more about the women who are electing to freeze their eggs as a way of postponing – but still having the option of – pregnancy and family. Hear about global corporations offering egg freezing as a “benefit” to female employees and how society’s approach to fertility is changing.
If you’re looking for more information about fertility and options for family planning, you can visit Dr. Marshall and her colleagues at Pacific NW Fertility.
Would you consider freezing your eggs in order to postpone pregnancy? Why or why not? We’d love to hear your thoughts; please share in the comments section of email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know on genneve’s Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, genneve’s closed Facebook group.
Jill Angelo, CEO of genneve, sat down with holistic health coach Amanda Giralmo of WellthieLife to talk about food, chronic inflammation, and how we can make better food choices to support our health.
Discovering our life’s true path often starts with fixing a problem within ourselves. For Amanda Giralmo, founder of Wellthie Life, bringing herself back to health and wholeness after a difficult divorce helped her uncover her passion for leading others to their best selves. She tells us how she found the strength to take that journey.
Did she feel she needed permission to take that journey, considering it meant taking time off and focusing on herself? We asked her how she came to that very necessary decision.
The experience brought her to where she is now, helping others as a certified holistic health coach focused on lowering inflammation. So, we asked her, what is inflammation, what causes it, and why is it so bad for us when it becomes “chronic”? Amanda explains the importance of the gut microbiome and how long-term inflammation damages the good bacteria we depend on for optimal health. (Ever heard the expression “leaky gut”?) What are the long-term consequences of inflammation?
Chronic inflammation caused by eating the wrong foods can be constant, if you consider how often we eat. Fifty million people – at least – suffer an autoimmune disease in the US. Knowing the right foods to eat for our bodies can help us avoid that fate, Amanda says.
So what are the symptoms? So many people have chronic inflammation due to eating foods they’re sensitive to, so clearly we’re not all as in-tune with our bodies as we should be. How can we know we need to change?
How does this condition start? Amanda tells us that formation of a healthy gut goes all the way back to how we’re born and our very first food. She also tells us what we do as adults that can cause inflammation besides eating the wrong foods.
As Amanda knows from her own personal story, stress is a major cause of inflammation. She talks about how stress affects us and what happens when we’re not able to “rest and digest.”
OK, so we’re chronically inflamed. If that inflammation isn’t reduced or eliminated, what can happen? The consequences can be pretty dire, Amanda warns us. Hear why you want to reduce that inflammation, like, yesterday.
What’s the difference between a food allergy and a reactivity or sensitivity? Both are signs of chronic inflammation, Amanda tells us, but allergies may be easier to detect. Because sensitivities can be slow and sneaky, we tend to just live with the discomfort for years. Amanda gives us the simple diagnostic.
Does aging have anything to do with inflammation? Yes, says Amanda, particularly in women, the lack of reproductive hormones makes chronic inflammation more apparent in women in midlife. She tells us the thinking around the intersection between inflammation and menopause.
Amanda has developed a three-phase program to help her clients eliminate harmful foods from their diet. Through the program, clients heal their bodies by identifying what causes the reactivity and learning to avoid or manage those triggers – with Amanda providing resources, guidance, and support throughout.
The program takes time to work through: Amanda gives us an idea of how long it typically takes to begin healing the chronic inflammation. And you don’t get to cheat, she warns us: eating a trigger food will set your body back to start.
It’s not an easy process, but the results can be well worth the effort. Amanda shares with us a client’s experience of losing weight, regaining energy, and generally feeling like embracing life again.
The role of “coach” gets interesting when the goals are so intensely personal. Amanda tells us about keep clients honest and their need to confess and apologize when they cheat or backslide. “I’m just here to play support and accountability,” Amanda says, “It’s all about what they need to do for themselves.”
If you need Amanda, how do you find her? The quickest way is by going to her website: wellthielife.com. (It’s a great place to find a whole lot of information, incidentally.) The initial, 50-minute consultation with Amanda is complimentary. It’s important to find a coach who’s a good “fit,” Amanda tells us, so choose your coach carefully.