#JustLikeYou: Should I freeze my eggs? Interview with Anja Zhao

#JustLikeYou: Should I freeze my eggs? Interview with Anja Zhao

Should you freeze your eggs? We discuss the why & why not, how, $$, where, when and Asian parents' views on egg freezing. Listen to Anja Zhao (German-born Chinese, ex-Nike, ex-BCG) and her hummingbird sabbatical travelling through Bali/Sri Lanka/Berlin/Africa/Mexico City while freezing her eggs at age 33. 

Watch Our Video Interview About Egg Freezing here 👇

Listen To Our Podcast About Egg Freezing👇

 

Anja, can you tell our listeners/readers a little about yourself?

I am German-born Chinese, like the founders of Oh Collective. We met at Nike, and I was in management consulting and strategy before that. After 11 years of working, this year I took a sabbatical, I was in Bali doing yin yoga training, was in Sri Lanka, froze my eggs in Berlin, went to Africa, and now I’m in Mexico city!

 

 

Can you also describe your sexual self in three words for us?

In the moment (not a word), curious and maybe a little vanilla (also not a word but okay!)

 

 

What made you consider you freezing your eggs?

Anja: When I was young, I always thought I wanted two kids. Now I realise I’m 33, and the biological clock is ticking, but I don’t feel ready to get pregnant. At the same time, parents and grandparents are asking, and I’m asking myself. When my partner and I took a break, I booked the appointment and got a little peace of mind.

How do you think social perceptions of motherhood affected your decision?

Socially, it has become more accepted for women to give birth at an older age, but biologically I could feel the clock ticking for me, and it annoyed me somehow. I will try not to interfere with nature so that I will not need to use the eggs, but now that I have done it, I feel super free.

Am I too late? At what age should I freeze my eggs? 

The doctor told me if you are 33, I can do it next year, and it will be the same. There is no best age per se…The older we get, the healthy egg proportion becomes less. So you are freezing fewer healthy eggs when you are 40 versus when you are 30. After talking with the doctor, my understanding is that after 35, the probability drops significantly. When you are 20, the likelihood of having a kid naturally is pretty high, so you don’t need to do it this early.  

How long does the procedure of freezing eggs take?

Mine was two weeks. During my research, I noticed that many of the processes are different depending on which country and clinic. And even in the same city, one clinic wanted one month of observation before doing it, and another was happy to start within my next cycle.  

How many eggs did you freeze?

I got 17 eggs after the surgery, but there were only 13 that were healthy. The doctor said that’s a good amount, but the downside is you will feel super bad. Imagine you are supposed to regularly produce one egg per month, and suddenly you have to produce 30 eggs; that is a crazy toll on your body.

If I want to a 100% success rate, how many eggs should I freeze?

You cannot get a 100% success rate. Freezing your eggs does not mean a guarantee. It only increases the possibility of you getting pregnant. If you have 13 healthy eggs, the probability of getting one child is 60 to 70 percent.

You have lived in many places; why, why Germany for egg freezing? 

In Germany, you can do ‘social freezing’, compared to other countries where they only allow you to do it if you are married and you need to freeze a fertilised egg (embryo). Social Freezing was initially for cancer patients before going into chemotherapy. 

Is it easy to get your eggs frozen in Germany? 

I called three clinics, and they had a long waiting line. I convinced them and they could squeeze me into their schedules. I told them I came from Asia to Berlin for this, and I wanted this. Initially, they told me it would be more than half a year. So you definitely need to plan!


How much did it cost to freeze your eggs? 

There are freezing costs and the costs to keep the eggs frozen. It costs 40 euros a month to keep them stored and frozen and 5000 euros as initial cost. These costs change yearly though.

What is something nobody ever told you about freezing eggs? 

In the next few days, don’t do crazy sports, don’t go to the sauna. I heard you can have sex, though (yay!).

How to deal with hormone overload?

My hypothesis is that how you feel during your period is a good indicator of how the hormones affect you. I ensured I was in a good environment, it was summer in Berlin, and my friends were around.

Asian parents! How did your family react to your egg-freezing journey?

My parents are pretty open-minded at this point; maybe they already gave up on me. They are pretty supportive, I'm not sure if they know the side effects, but I did it on my own with support from friends. My mom wasn’t pushing in a very extreme way, but they have been wondering about kids. Now that my grandpa had passed away, he wanted to see grandchildren. You can tell they want to push, but they restrict themselves, which I am really thankful for. At this point, I think they are just happy there is a higher possibility of having kids.

How should we prepare for egg freezing?

Do a lot of research! About all the risks, how to order the medicine and miscellaneous things in daily life to think about, like gaining weight, gut health and digestion problems, headaches, etc.

For example, my doctor in Germany recommended me a clinic in France to order the meds from, and I had to wait until the heat wave was over to receive the medicine in good shape. You need a lot of space for the medication and needles; you will need a fridge to store these. My fridge was filled with those meds. In the end, try to schedule your surgery around other events so as not to disrupt them too much—fun fact: sex before freezing eggs can help to trigger ovulation.

Egg freezing can be a critical decision; it's important to have a supportive partner if you have one. Your partner does not need to prepare too much but should be aware that the person freezing their eggs may need extra care.

Any general suggestions for gals on the fence?

It is good to read up and know that you are taking many risks because you will have lots of things to sign, so you should evaluate the risks to see if you are willing to take them. Everyone should do their research before making a decision, and while the process is generally considered safe, there are certain risks associated with it.

If you are in the wondering stage, get your AMH levels checked (very easy check-up) to have an estimate and see if you are on the spectrum of fertility urgency. When consulting with a doctor, see if egg freezing is right for you and to discuss the appropriate cutoff point for egg freezing. Also, speak to others who have done the same, and think about your life stage and whether it is worth going through with the entire process. 

Think about whether you want to have children in your 40s, as the health of the person you are trying to have a child with may not be great by then.

Follow Anja on Instagram @ciaoanja to follow her journey.

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In our #JustLikeYou series, we interview people from different backgrounds on sex, intimacy, and relationships. We hope these stories can help you navigate your intimate lives  – We’re all #JustLikeYou.
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