Pilates Platinum Instructor Feature: Juliet Chung
For a myriad of different reason, some health related and some personal, many women today are choosing an elective fertility preservation procedure called oocyte cryopreservation, more commonly referred to as egg freezing.
Not all together new, but certainly a process that is gaining in popularity, many are turning to this process in hopes of putting off starting a family, but not all together foregoing the opportunity for later in life, as fertility declines with age.
Recently, one of our instructors, Juliet Chung, underwent this procedure. She decided to share her experience with us in hopes of demystifying the process and helping others who are interested in egg freezing as a viable option for themselves.
Like for many women, egg freezing was not on Juliet’s radar. But as she explains, “Life happened. Things changed”.
“Last year I turned 40. I was happy, was in a good career, and in a great relationship that was moving towards marriage and soon afterward, kids”, Juliet explains, “We were anticipating all of that happening in 2016.”
When asked about how the process began for her, Juliet shared this, “In early 2016, unfortunately, the relationship ended, but I didn’t want my dreams of having children to be dashed just because this hiccup in life. I began asking around, but didn’t know anyone going through the process, and felt pretty alone. There was just so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.”
When she shared her interest in egg freezing with her loved ones, she was met with a less than enthusiastic response. “My family felt that I could wait and do it the “natural” way, soon, and that my age wouldn’t matter, but unfortunately science says otherwise.” And she’s not wrong. According to the Mayo Clinic, a woman’s fertility gradually declines with age, especially in her mid-30s, and it drops rapidly after age 37.
It wasn’t always an easy decision for Juliet. Many close to her insisted that the traditional way was better, and Juliet’s insurance company confirmed they wouldn’t cover any of the cost of the procedure. But despite all the nay-Sayers, Juliet’s primary care doctor encouraged her to go through with the process, and that she did!
“Thankfully,” Juliet explained, “By living a fairly healthy lifestyle, and with a mix of good genes, my doctor said that I was “young” for my age.” And with the knowledge that this was a perfect time for her to take life by the reins and do something profoundly special and important for herself and her life, she began the process.
And what can someone like Juliet making that decision expect when undergoing the process of egg freezing? USC Fertility explains:
In order to retrieve eggs for freezing, a patient undergoes the same hormone-injection process as in-vitro fertilization. The only difference being that following egg retrieval, the eggs are frozen for a period of time before they are thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
The process takes approximately 4-6 weeks to complete the egg freezing cycle and includes 2-4 weeks of self-administered hormone injections and birth control pills to temporarily turn off natural hormones, and 10-14 days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple eggs.
Once the eggs have adequately matured, they are removed with a needle placed through the vagina under ultrasound guidance. This procedure is done under intravenous sedation and is not painful. The eggs are then immediately frozen. When the patient is ready to attempt pregnancy (this can be several years later) the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
“My Repro Doctor is amazing!”, boasts Juliet! She just can’t recommend her enough! With that winning endorsement, we decided to chat with this amazing doctor and get the skinny in her own words!
Dr. Gayane Ambartsumyan who has been practicing for sixteen years, six of which have been spent in fertility, loves what she does. When asked about her favorite part of the job she shared, “Helping couples build their families or have the option to in the future. Success stories are what makes me smile on daily basis.”
The hardest part? “There are definitely ups and downs,” Dr. A shared, “but the ups by far outweigh the downs. It’s really hard to not get personally involved and invested in the patient’s outcome. I have definitely cried with one patient and celebrated with another in the same day.”
Regarding the biggest misconception that patients have when they come in to freeze their eggs, Dr. A explained, “They think there is a “magic” number of eggs that will guarantee them a baby, when in reality we can’t really grade eggs and will not know the true quality and the potential of the eggs until we thaw them and create embryos.”
Whether egg freezing is ultimately the right decision for you or not, one thing is clear, knowledge is power. Juliet, we and the rest of the Pilates Platinum community honor you, support you, and sincerely thank you for sharing your story with us!