My Egg Freezing Journey: How a second opinion helped me invest in my futureDec 21, 2023
Dani Maynard, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Strategic Psychotherapist based in Sydney, Australia.
"If you really want children, I strongly suggest you consider a sperm donor."
Those were the words said to me by a fertility specialist last year during an egg-freezing consultation.
I was 32 when I decided to get the AMH test, a blood test that checks your ovarian reserve. I've always known that I wanted a family, but at the time I was in a fairly new relationship so kids weren't exactly on our radar. But since entering my 30s, fertility has been on my mind and I started hearing more and more about a blood test you could do to check things out.
As someone who tends to faint when getting needles, voluntarily getting a blood test isn't exactly a fun day out. But I wanted some peace of mind that when the time is right, my eggs will be in tip-top shape and good to go.
My GP explained that the anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is a hormone secreted by cells in developing follicles and that the level of AMH in a woman's blood is generally a good indicator of her ovarian reserve. AMH does not change during your menstrual cycle, so the blood sample can be taken at any time of the month - even while you are using oral contraception.
The test results I didn’t bother asking about
My AMH results came in at 2.6. Having done zero research into the test and with no medical background, I didn’t exactly know what a “good” number was, but I knew that 2.6 wasn’t great.
"Your result is on the low side, but you're on the pill so that can give an inaccurate reading", she said.
Naïveté or perhaps a subconscious avoidance of the truth led me to accept the results without probing further. I simply accepted that it is what it is, and I'm in no rush to have kids anyway, so why worry about it now?
In hindsight, I should have asked the important questions, like "should I be concerned about this result?", "will this affect my fertility?", and "can I still freeze my eggs?".
Fast forward 8 months, and plot twist - my boyfriend and I broke up. Oh, and I turned 33. This compelled me to Google my AMH result for the first time, and what I found hit me like a ton of bricks.
I discovered that 2.6 was in the range of a woman between the age of 45-50. A healthy AMH level for my age was between 6.8 and 47.8.
Panic set in. Not only did I feel like I had lost precious time on yet another failed relationship, but I was also coming to terms with the fact that my egg count was rapidly dwindling and that I may never have children of my own.
I found myself obsessively Googling anything and everything to do with fertility. From how to naturally increase your AMH level to articles and forums about women having children despite terrible odds. Nothing provided any level of comfort, and most of what I read confirmed that your AMH can’t be changed.
I also reached out to a friend who I knew had frozen her eggs after receiving a low AMH result, hoping it would give me some peace of mind. She told me her AMH was 5.1, more than double what mine was.
The worst consultation of my life 😖
I decided my only option would be to freeze whatever was left of my eggs, so I booked a consultation with a fertility specialist at a bulk billing clinic in Sydney. I remember being at work that day and popping into a meeting room to take the Zoom call at lunch time, feeling confident in my decision and ready to get these bad boys in the freezer.
"If you really want children, I strongly suggest you consider a sperm donor."
I genuinely couldn't believe what I was hearing. He essentially told me that my AMH was so low that I'm not a candidate for egg freezing (or IVF later down the track). I asked him if I was to go off the pill, would that increase my AMH?
I was told at best, it might increase by 30%, but even that number would be too low to undergo the egg retrieval. He said to get enough eggs to freeze, I would likely have to do 6-10 rounds of retrievals, and I just knew I didn't have the emotional or financial means to do that.
I've always had faith that when the time was right, I would meet the right guy. I know women who’ve done it, but I just couldn't imagine having a child on my own and being a single mother. The idea of getting a sperm donor wasn’t something I was ready to consider, especially not weeks after a breakup. I left work crying that day.
The second opinion that changed everything 🤯
It's fair to say that during the months that followed, anxiety became an unwelcome companion. I vividly recall being at a friend’s birthday party, someone asking how I was and immediately bursting into tears. I just felt a complete loss of control over my body and my future. I kept thinking, how can I help clients with anxiety when I was suffering my own internal battle?
But enough was enough—I couldn’t let this narrative define me.
I wrote a list of everything that was worrying me, and I decided to focus on the things I could control. I went off the pill, embraced acupuncture, overhauled my diet, started therapy, spent time with friends, and shifted my focus to the positives in my life. Amidst all of this, a friend recommended a fertility expert who would ultimately change the course of my narrative.
My friend Molly Benjamin (Founder of LFC) mentioned that she was about to undergo the egg-freezing process too and she recommended Dr Bill Ledger from City Fertility. I booked the first available appointment and at the same time, did another AMH test as it had been about a year since my previous result.
I received the results from the new test the day before my appointment with Dr Ledger. He started our consultation by saying, "Dani, what do you think of your latest test result?". I told him I assumed there was a typo.
He assured me that the result was correct and that my actual AHM level was, in fact, 20.3.
He told me that the pill had significantly lowered my AMH, showing an inaccurate reading, and that he sees this kind of thing all the time. He assured me that I was perfectly healthy and that my egg reserve was absolutely normal for my age.
Oh my god.
The RELIEF I felt.
The relief of knowing that everything is okay, that I don't have to get a sperm donor, that I can in fact freeze my eggs and give myself that safety net. Again, I Googled “contraceptive pill lowers AMH result” and found very little evidence to support this. But here I was, living proof that it does with a 782% increase after going off the pill for just 3 months.
The process ⚙️
After my consultation with Dr Ledger I started the egg freezing process immediately. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I found the process…challenging.
The first few days were okay as it was just one injection (the follicle stimulating hormone). My lovely housemate was doing the injections for me, as I couldn’t handle looking at the needle let alone injecting myself. On day 5, we had to introduce the second needle (the one that stops me from ovulating).
One morning after receiving both injections, I fainted while walking through my apartment and hit my head on the corner of a door. I was then faced with the worst black eye you’ve ever seen (trigger warning below). The looks I got when in public (and when I looked in the mirror) were truly harrowing.
But I persevered, and kept reminding myself why I was doing this. I continued the daily injections and got blood tests and ultrasounds every few days until I finally got the green light that my eggs were ripe for the picking. The finale was 4 trigger injections, then a 36 hour wait until the egg retrieval procedure.
Let’s freeze these eggs!
I had my egg retrieval procedure in July this year at City Fertility’s Sydney's CBD clinic. I chose the local anaesthetic so I had a little nap, but there was also the option to have the green whistle and be awake for it.
In total, it cost me around $10,000 and the procedure was a quick 20 minutes followed by a day of rest and lots of water. I felt so supported by Dr Ledger and his team, and the reassurance they gave me throughout the entire process was beyond comforting. I also woke up to a stunning view of Sydney harbour and some chocolate biccies, so not a bad start to the day really.
The message I want to convey to women is to always seek a second opinion. Don't accept your fate without exploring alternatives. You're not alone in your struggles—whether you’re single and freezing your eggs alone or facing fertility challenges in a relationship. Whatever you’re going through, know that there is support available and that there are ways to take control (even when everything feels out of your control).
My other piece of advice is to ask for help! I was so lucky to have my housemate, my mum and my sister who flew to Sydney to be with me, as there’s no way I could’ve done this alone. Most importantly though, if you’re as bad as needles as I am, I highly recommend doing the injections laying down to avoid any fainting mishaps.
Reflecting on my journey, I often think about what would have happened if I'd listened to the first fertility specialist and just accepted what he told me. Maybe I'd be looking into getting a sperm donor right now, or maybe I would've rushed things with the wrong person. Who knows, but I am beyond relieved that I trusted my gut.
Today, I feel extremely proud of myself for taking control of investing in my future. Although it wasn’t the smoothest journey, I am so glad I did it. Hopefully I never have to use my batch of frozen eggs, but I have peace of mind knowing that they're there if I ever need them.