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I empathize with women who have been given false information about egg freezing. Had I trusted doctors during my transition, I would not have children today.
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I empathize with women who have been given false information about egg freezing. Had I trusted doctors during my transition, I would not have children today.

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The discussions about the growing trend of freezing eggs for non-medical or “social” purposes have been hard to overlook in recent times. This is just one example of the significant increase in the utilization of fertility treatments, all aimed at providing more choices for individuals considering parenthood. The discussion often centers around the question of whether a person, typically a well-off, heterosexual, Caucasian woman, should freeze their eggs as a backup plan for their “biological clock”, professional advancement, and/or the possibility of not finding a suitable partner in time to begin a family.

After becoming aware of the pattern, I began to realize that many articles were lacking in one crucial detail: the statistical probability of successful pregnancies using frozen eggs. While some discussions touch on cost and societal influences driving the demand for this procedure, there is a noticeable absence of information about the actual success rate for those utilizing frozen eggs for conception. These frozen eggs are often marketed and referred to as “fertility nest eggs,” despite growing evidence of their low effectiveness.

You may have noticed my photo and thought, why is someone who is bald concerned about this?

In 2013, I went to my third or fourth meeting at a gender identity clinic in London. There was about a six-month gap between appointments and I had to wait over a year for the initial appointment. During this particular appointment, the consultant discussed the risks and benefits of starting testosterone injections. We also talked about fertility and whether I had considered preserving my eggs through freezing. As I heard this, I realized I hadn’t thought about it before.

“No…?” I offered.

The person responded, “You should check with your GP to see if they will cover the cost, but it’s unlikely. It’s very expensive and I’ve heard it doesn’t usually work.” At the time, I didn’t know what it was that rarely had success. As I waited for my T prescription in the following weeks, I did bring it up with my GP.

A same sex couple, two women playing with their 6 month old baby girl.View image in fullscreen

I had accepted the idea of being infertile for the chance to live as my authentic self in the future. I believed that transitioning would mean giving up the possibility of conceiving. The consent form for beginning hormone therapy explicitly stated this trade-off, but I signed it without hesitation after years of careful consideration. Additionally, the consultant’s remarks seemed to suggest that true men do not place much importance on having children. They may even want to remove their uterus as soon as possible.

At the moment, my personal emotions towards being a parent were mixed, but I didn’t bother expressing them to him. I used to believe that I would definitely become a parent at some point. It’s possible that I still may. I considered adoption, fostering, and surrogacy as legitimate options, although they were only theoretical.

My general practitioner was straightforward with me: the National Health Service (NHS) would not cover the cost of freezing my eggs. Additionally, the likelihood of a successful pregnancy from a frozen egg at that time was less than 10%. I was actually relieved to hear this low number because it made the idea of trying to pay for the procedure myself unnecessary.

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There has been an increase in successful births from frozen eggs, but the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in the UK reports that they are still lower than rates from unfrozen eggs, which typically fall between 20% and 30%. In 2016, the UK saw a birhtate of 18% per treatment cycle using frozen eggs.

By chance, I found out in 2016 that testosterone did not actually make me infertile, contrary to what I had believed. I stumbled upon this information through a YouTube video. In the almost eight years that have passed since then, I have become a parent to two children through artificial insemination with donor sperm. This experience has sparked my interest in the limited research on the fertility and reproductive choices of trans individuals. However, there is little to no scientific evidence that testosterone has any effect on the fertility of trans men. I am still unsure why doctors advise us otherwise, but I am confident that it is not based on scientific evidence.

Prior to getting pregnant with my youngest child through IUI (intrauterine insemination), I attempted IVF on my own with the intention of producing multiple embryos from the last remaining vial of donor sperm I had frozen. At the time, I was 33 years old and did not have any issues with fertility. I underwent two embryo transfers from thawed embryos, but unfortunately the first was unsuccessful and the second resulted in a miscarriage at five weeks. This experience was a clear reminder that even when everything seems favorable, there is still a possibility of failure. I currently have a few frozen embryos, so I also understand the frustration of receiving a hefty storage bill each year.

I am glad to see that there is an increase in awareness regarding the possibility of for-profit fertility clinics providing misleading information to patients about egg freezing data. As a transgender man, I personally experienced a different form of misinformation. I was informed that my reproductive options were limited, while others were convinced that there was a guaranteed method to have more options.

I am grateful that I discovered my truth early on. If I had gone through the typical process with the National Health Service and had a hysterectomy, believing that testosterone had rendered me unable to have children and that the procedure was crucial for preventing certain types of cancer (which has now been proven false), my children would not be here today. Having experienced this, it saddens me to think about women viewing frozen eggs as a way to secure their future, only to realize when they have no other choices that it is not as easy as it seems.

Healthcare providers are obligated to give truthful and impartial information in every situation, without exception. Nothing should compromise this duty, whether it be financial incentives or misguided attempts to enforce societal expectations. Both women and transgender individuals have experienced being misinformed, disregarded, and disrespected by medical professionals. While there may be similarities in our experiences, there are also differences that can offer valuable insights when shared.

In terms of sexual and reproductive health and decision-making, it is crucial that we strive for improved, ethical and accessible individual-centered care. By collaborating, we increase our chances of achieving this goal.

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    Freddy McConnell is a self-employed reporter who possesses

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Source: theguardian.com