Timeless in the press

Timeless popped up!

If you were in Old Street last week you might have come across our Timeless pop-up shop.

Over 1100 people popped in to explore our product ranges and discuss fertility and egg freezing. If you couldn't join us, here are a few pictures of what you missed:

The view from the station entrance
Stop the Clock Age-Defying Serums
Create your own Bespoke Blend
Eau So Pressured




Can Women Have it All?

The final of our in-store events discussed the topic ‘Can Women have it All?’ The panel explored how women might navigate the difficult and often conflicting pressures they face in relation to work and relationships against a backdrop of declining fertility and choices around motherhood. 

Our panellists were:

Listen to the audio of the event here

 

Should you freeze your eggs?

For the second in our series of Timeless events we were joined in-store by a panel of experts to discuss the question Should you Freeze your Eggs? This talk looked at egg freezing from the medical, legal, societal and individual perspectives. 

Our panellists were:

Listen to the audio of the discussion here

  

Making it Work in the Workplace

Last night saw the first of our three in-store events, Making it Work in the Workplace. The panel discussed the current state of play for working mothers and explored the system-wide changes needed to support a more equitable society. 

Our panellists were:

  • Anne Phillips, Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Nicki Sprinz, co-founder of Ada’s List and Business Director at ustwo
  • Kathryn Nawrockyi, Gender Equality Director at Business in the Community.
  • The panel was chaired by the journalist Yvonne Roberts.

You can listen to the discussion in full here

 

Choices for my Future Self: part 2 - the time is now

Valerie had her eggs frozen last year. Here she shares some of her experience of the process...

 

  • Hormones Day 1

Day 1 of injections for the fertility meds. I couldn’t help but feel like men have it so easy. What if I don't mix these drugs right? The thoughts of fear and doubt start to creep in. I was wishing I had someone to be here and hold my hand. I just kept thinking about all the countless women who completed IVF before me. Many of those women were injecting these meds into their bodies because this was their last shot at becoming a parent. I’m lucky that this hormone cycle was not a make or break situation for me.

I am not particularly scared of needles especially working within the healthcare space. I have seen much worse situations. It is more of this unnatural thing to inflict pain or stick a needle into your belly on purpose that got me. But once that initial shock was over, I began to think the shots themselves were not particularly bad. Dealing with the side effects like breast tenderness, hormones fluctuations and body’s physical reactions to the medications however I learned soon after were much harder.

 

  • Hormones Day 3

After finishing 2 days of injecting myself with hormones, I had the routine down. Make dinner, take my antibiotic, inject myself with hormones, wash the dishes, relax with some reality TV, get ready for bed…

As each day passed I could start to feel my body change, and feel things I had never experienced. By the end of day three, I could tell my hormones were in full effect. I was crying at common commercials for no good reason. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Snap out of it I kept telling my head, but my body was in charge right now.

 

  • Hormones Day 5

By day five I felt like I was getting hit by a bus. I started to have black and blue bruise marks all over my stomach. Today was an off-day from my morning monitoring visits. During the first week of hormones, I was only asked to come into the fertility clinic every other day to make sure the prescribed treatment plan was working effectively.

Symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, and fluid retention were really starting to be present and take over. Clothes started to hurt. Anything on my body felt like a thousand pins and needles poking me. I don’t want to sound dramatic here, but I was very uncomfortable.

In the heightened emotional state induced by hormone overload, even anodyne comments had the power to reduce me to tears. I was amazed how effected my emotions had become. I couldn’t explain why I felt this emotional. I was in a state of feeling ultra sensitive and vulnerable. My best advice for this time is to hibernate a bit and keep yourself positive. I did a little contact with the outside world as possible.

 

  • Hormones Day 8

Getting up before the crack of dawn on a Saturday to make my morning monitor visit after a weeks worth of hormones is dedication let me tell you. I started to realize how cycle monitoring was a full time job. I didn't want to wear clothes especially around my mid section as it became increasingly uncomfortable. My hormones are increasingly raging and my breast tenderness was at an all time high.

I learned during this appointment that I had many follicles over 10mm big and they needed to reach over 15mm to be mature enough, but often times if they got larger than 20mm they would be too mature and not make the freeze either. However there are no guarantees that the smaller follicles could catch up in time or that the medicine would impact the larger already fast growing follicles.

 

  • Hormones Day 10

I learned at my daily monitoring appointment today that my right ovary sits much higher than my left. That would explain some of my belly bulge shift on my right side that was higher than my waistline. It also might mean that it would be harder to retrieve the follicles and eggs from that side. By now, the side effects of the drugs were starting to get me down. I could barely stand the clothes that were on my body. Everything seemed to hurt. After work I went home and relaxed with a hot bath and went to bed early. I was so tired and worn out that I missed the phone call from my clinic with my results.

 

  • Day 11

I was getting increasingly excited, as this morning monitoring exam could be the last one before my retrieval. I was feeling super bloated, uncomfortable and anxious for the retrieval to happen. The ultrasound confirmed that I would be ready for egg collection on Thursday.

 

  • Day 12

I was feeling very tired this morning after getting up at 4 am to administer the first part of my trigger shot. It was rather hard to give myself the series of trigger shots because it had to go into the muscle of my butt. That reach around especially half asleep at 4 am was rather challenging.

As the day progressed my joints, tailbone, stomach and other body parts really ached. I was only sitting down, but I really wanted to be home safely in my bed and curling up in the fetal position. I was told that I was at risk for hyperstimulation and that I needed to take it easy. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a medical condition affecting the ovaries of some women who take fertility medication to stimulate egg growth. Most cases are mild, but rarely the condition is severe and can lead to serious illness or death. Today I felt aching sensation or pain on both sides of my ovaries. I was told that my ovaries were larger than the size of oranges at this point. No wonder they ached and felt tender to the touch.

 

  • Day 13 Egg Retrieval Procedure

The day had finally come … after almost two weeks of intense meds and my stomach now protruding like I was pregnant, everything all leading up to this moment. Despite trying to remain calm, there’s no denying I feel positively jittery today.

Typical protocol events took place such as name check verification, IV placement, and offer to slumber land I went. The last thing I remember telling everyone was how the room felt like my fertility family was all together on Christmas eve.

I don't remember much after that. Apparently I cracked some jokes, told everyone I loved them, and was talking crazy talk after waking up from anesthesia. All I remember is how I was thirsty.

I suggest a few days before your retrieval to stock up on any fluids that contain electrolytes, easy to make food items, and semi healthy snacks. This would have saved me from having to beg my friends or neighbors to pick up these items for me when I was to exhausted and bloated the next day to do it myself.

 

What Egg Freezing Taught Me

I was also thankful that I had off work the following day and then into the weekend. Those three solid days of rest did me wonders. I probably could have done my normal activities, but it was nice to just rest instead. I would get headaches, dizzy easily, or out of breathe quickly. I found that I was moving slower and not as fast as I usually did. All of this is normal. Plus I really didn't fit back into my old clothes again yet.

What happens is your body fills up and retains fluid. Any weight you are gaining is really just water weight. So don't be alarmed as this is normal. You want to help replenish your system so your body flushes this out. As each day passes I was starting to feel more like myself. It is a process. Just remember it took you 2 weeks to get to this level, give yourself at least 2 weeks to start feeling like you did before you started the hormones. Everyone’s body responds differently to the medications.

All in all it was worth my effort. I was thankful I had done it. Little over a month worth of sacrifice for a lifetime opportunity seems worth it to me. I could tell I was already more calm and at peace.

As another birthday approaches all of my education, travels, and knowledge of the world has left me wondering, where is my future going and am I ready for parenthood alone or with a partner? I have this feeling that there is no such thing as being ready for anything, there is only now and the time is now. No matter where life leads or where my future takes me, I always have 17 beautiful eggs that are chilling until I am ready to use them.

 

 

Plan B: Freeze Your Eggs

Winnie recently decided to freeze her eggs. This is her story so far…

 

So, freezing my eggs had never been part of The Plan.  Growing up as a young girl, this was never the sentimental, greeting-card image of how my life was meant to progress: School, then, University, then First Job, then Next Job, then Freezing My Eggs.  No, after First Job, there was supposed to be something about Meeting a Nice Man, then Marriage, then Family.  But I seem to have missed that turn-off somehow, and now I’m on a different track.  A track which is taking me, inevitably, unavoidably, towards Freezing My Eggs.

 

Of course, at 37, I tell myself that the scripted template of the modern woman’s life is a artificial construction, something concocted by consumer culture and societal conventions and glossy women’s magazines to remind me, constantly, that I’m not wearing enough eyeliner, or being assertive enough in meetings, or using enough subtle body language on a first date to snag myself a lasting boyfriend.  Most of the time, I say ‘Screw it, who cares?’

 

But this time, I do care.  This time, I’m facing the simple undeniable fact that if I actually want to have children — and do that whole motherhood thing, the biological wonder of a child growing inside me — my options are running out.  The last turn-off towards motherhood is fast approaching, there’s no turning back once I’ve passed it, and I don’t even have a vehicle to get off the highway in time.

 

But wait — there’s this other option.  This detour called egg-freezing. 

 

Slightly older female friends have been telling me about egg-freezing for some time.  I’ve watched many of them struggle with getting pregnant through rounds of IVF, I’ve watched many others mellow into motherhood.  But through it all, I never actually thought about my own journey, that it would be so difficult to find a partner in today’s dating world, and that this would have a knock-on effect on whether I could actually ever become a mother.

 

In a whiney child’s voice, I want to say: ‘That’s not fair!’  I’ve had a fulfilling career and an active life and have traveled to over 60 countries in the world.  It’s just no one ever warned me about the motherhood deadline — or if they did, I never really took it seriously.  How come men can do all the things I’ve done and never have to worry about whether they’ll get to father a child? 

 

But I tell myself I’m not a child anymore, I’m a modern woman.  And I have savings and choices and well, ok, so… consider this Plan B.  A quick stop-off that might somehow allow me to re-route back towards motherhood, should I ever want to go there. 

 

This stop-off costs at least £ 5,000.  This is a significant chunk of money for me, but I tell myself it’s worth it.  My friends give me recommendations for clinics.  And on my 37th birthday, I bite the bullet, go to a clinic, and have my fertility tests taken. 

 

The results are not promising.  To add the heap of things we can feel inadequate about as modern women, there’s also our biological fertility levels, something over which we have no control. 

 

I am told my chances of collecting many viable eggs are low.  I hem, I haw.  A few months pass, I continue to age.  And now, nearly six months after those tests were taken (the expiry date for their viability), I’m deciding to go ahead with the procedure.  On Day 1 of my next period, I’ll start injecting myself every day with hormones.  Every other day, I’ll be going in for trans-vaginal scans. 

 

Is this what giving myself an option looks like? 

 

I guess so.  Some women consider this an empowering step, deciding to freeze your eggs. But I’m just seeing it as Plan B. I may just be throwing £ 5,000 down the toilet.  But I don’t really seem to have that many other options left.  

Choices for my Future Self: freezing my eggs

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Valerie had her eggs frozen last year. Here she shares the start of her egg freezing journey...

For the past 13 years, I have worked in the field of healthcare and women’s health. I am privileged to have a job where I can help others daily. Working within the medical community of IVF, fertility, and reproductive health I have gained valuable insight and knowledge that has been useful in my personal life. Because of my understanding of the technology of reproductive endocrinology, instinctively I knew that egg freezing would be something I would elect to do for future myself.

 

I saw first hand the countless women struggling with infertility due to age. I watched and learned about heartbreaking stories as they try to conceive their child. I wanted to avoid those same problems for myself. I wanted to educate others and warn women about the sharp decline of fertility after 35 years old. Most importantly I wanted to encourage women who may not have known about these struggles to keep trying for their dream of a child.

 

The biggest factor every woman needs to understand is that time is not on our side. Think of egg freezing as a way to stop that biological clock and preserve the younger genetic version of you for the possibility to extend your childbearing years. Personally, I think delaying motherhood until I feel more ready and prepared for children is a very attractive option.

 

My egg freezing journey really started with my fertility check-up in Autumn 2015. I had just celebrated my 33rd birthday and thought a great present to myself would be to get a fertility check-up. I was ordered a panel of fertility tests and a transvaginal ultrasound. The Anti-Mullerian Hormone test is an inexpensive blood test that can aid in assessing ovarian potential. It will tell how many eggs you may have left (low, average or high number) and allow the doctors to know where your fertility baseline is.

 

Here are my results from the fertility testing that was explained to me.

  • Estrogen 41.8
  • FHS 1.6 (should be less than 10)
  • HCG less than one
  • Gluten Hormone 1.47
  • Prolacktin 23.5 (desired range 2 -25)
  • Ultrasound good 23 small follicles (both sides) 3.7 mm uterine lining
  • No STDs found

I was so relieved. I had never been tested before. I spent most of my teenage and early adult years doing my best not to become pregnant. Now the idea that I could become pregnant some day and that my fertility tests came as expected was such a relief. I had no idea I would feel this way. I realised it can be emotional, but not until I went through my own emotions did I really grasp the depth of these tests.

 

No wonder most women are in shock when they learn everything that is involved with egg freezing and fertility preservation. It is a shame that no one ever tells you to think about these things when you are 20 instead of 35-40 years old. I am educated in this area and focused on women’s health, yet I found myself looking at all of this with a whole new pair of eyes. Staring at my test results made this whole situation real.

Read part 2 of Valerie's story to learn more about her experience of the egg freezing process

 

 

An interview with Geeta Nargund, Director of CREATE Fertility

- Does egg freezing represent an advance for women, and for society? 

For women to thrive, society needs to ensure that they have the true freedom to make the choices that they want to make. When it comes to reproductive ageing, the reality is that nature has created gender inequality. A woman's reproductive clock ticks much quicker than a man's. There is a sharp and proven decline in a woman’s egg reserve, and thus her fertility, after the age of 38.
Politicians and sociologists fight for gender equality through equality in work and pay and better access to childcare – which we must continue to fight for as basic female rights. However, fertility issues are often overlooked. If a woman chooses to delay motherhood, whether to progress her career or because she hasn’t yet found the right partner, we should be supporting her decision. The latest technology for egg freezing offers an opportunity to preserve fertility instead of simply leaving things to chance. Such choice is a key factor on the road to gender equality.

- What would your main message be to women who are considering freezing their eggs? 

It is important to have a healthy lifestyle and to optimise your body weight. When doing your research, look for a clinic that offers a modern mild stimulation protocol that works within your own cycle. Not only is this shorter than conventional stimulation protocol, it is also aimed at obtaining better quality eggs and eliminating the health risks such as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). The focus should be on egg quality not quantity.

- Women are always under some kind of time pressure it seems - if you are planning to do it, when is the right time to freeze your eggs? 

The earlier the better for egg freezing. Your age at freezing determines the success. Ideally, you should freeze before the age of 35.

- Can contemporary women 'have it all’? 

I will be discussing this very topic at the Timeless event on 5 March. I believe women can have it all, but not necessarily all at the same time. The ideal is to have your baby at a young age but an increasing number of women are not ready to start a family when they are young either because they have not met the ideal partner or have a career to pursue.
With advances in egg freezing, women no longer have to lose out in the career stakes in order to start a family. Egg freezing is as important as the “pill” when it comes to helping women with reproductive choices.
The only main barrier to widespread uptake is the cost of treatment, which is why I believe that every effort should be made by clinics to reduce costs, and thus make this exciting advancement accessible to as many women as possible.

 

Professor Geeta Nargund is Medical Director of CREATE Fertility, and a Senior Consultant Gynaecologist and Lead Consultant for Reproductive Medicine services at St George’s Hospital, London. Professor Nargund will be joining the discussion 'Can Women Have it All?' at the Timeless pop-up on Saturday 5th March at 2pm

The challenges of 'Social' egg freezing

By Professor Emily Jackson, LSE

 

All of the evidence to date suggests that women are, in practice, most likely to freeze their eggs in their late thirties, when egg freezing is least likely to work. If we are concerned only with clinical success rates, the best time to freeze one’s eggs is in one’s twenties. There are, however, other considerations that militate towards later freezing.

 

First, the younger the woman is at the time of freezing, the more likely it is that she will conceive naturally, and egg freezing will have been an uncomfortable waste of time and money. Secondly, in the absence of premature infertility, the statutory time limit for the storage of frozen eggs is currently ten years.

 

Women choosing to freeze their eggs therefore have to balance a complex set of odds. Do it too early, and your eggs are likely to be unused or legally unusable. Do it too late, and it will be more expensive, and more invasive (because more cycles are needed), and it is also less likely to work. There may then be an extremely narrow window in women’s early thirties in which the odds of the frozen eggs both being used and working well are (relatively) favourable.

 

There are potentially huge profits to be made from selling an invasive medical treatment to retrieve eggs from women who are unlikely to ever actually use their frozen eggs. It is therefore critically important that women have all of the information they need in order to give fully informed consent. It is also important that clinics do not oversell this technology as the ‘ultimate family planning technology’, capable of ‘stopping the biological clock’, ‘cheating biology’ and ‘preserving a woman’s fertility indefinitely’. Egg freezing does not preserve a woman’s fertility, which will continue to decline. Instead, while it might increase the chance of successful IVF treatment in one’s forties, IVF fails more frequently than it succeeds.

 

It is therefore crucially important that women understand that there are no guarantees that egg freezing will enable them to have a baby later in life. There is a danger that women with frozen eggs may be lulled into a false sense of security, and further delay childbearing as a result, making their future childlessness more, rather than less likely. As well as the immediate health risks and discomfort of ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval, women also need clear and frank information about some of the difficult decisions they will face in the future.

 

Egg freezing is commonly compared to taking out insurance: you may never need it, but it gives you peace of mind to know that it is there. But few of us would take out an insurance policy costing at least £4000 when the chance of it paying out were as slim as the chance of success with frozen eggs and IVF. Egg freezing is an insurance policy which will provide peace of mind only with a hefty injection of hope and optimism.

 

Emily Jackson is Professor of Law at The London School of Economics and Political Science, and has been an advisor to the Timeless project. Emily is a Member of the British Medical Association Medical Ethics Committee, and until 2012 was Deputy Chair of the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority. 

Timeless in The Observer

Today's Observer Magazine features a 4-page article on fertility, egg freezing and Timeless. A snippet:

At the end of the month, London’s Old Street station will host a pop-up, Timeless, aimed at commuters like Georgina – a beauty store, but not. The Wellcome Trust, the London School of Economics and consultants the Liminal Space are collaborating on this project out of concern that women are making the choice to freeze their eggs without fully understanding what that choice entails. A series of talks will investigate the conflicting issues that make it hard to make a decision in isolation. Branded as cosmetics, the products in the shop include a Clinique-style “3-Step Solution for egg freezing”, a bespoke line of perfume and a range of “age-defying serums” that, rather than promising to give you the skin of a six-year-old, slyly inform about fertility decline.
“We felt that the language of the beauty industry echoed a lot of the rhetoric around egg freezing with its promises of ‘hope’, ‘rejuvenation’ and ‘external youth’,” says Amanda Gore, one of the directors of the Liminal Space. “Beauty products often promise a magic solution that is shrouded in misinformation or hard-to-comprehend small print. And it also brings with it an implicit pressure on women to strive for the perfect life – pressures that many women are well versed in.”
Co-director Sarah Douglas adds: “One of the biggest learnings for us has been how difficult it is to find a clear answer about how successful egg freezing will be for individual women. This makes it really hard for women to make an informed choice.” They spent time with clinicians, embryologists, social scientists and women who have recently frozen their eggs to understand the reasons, process and the impact of egg freezing.

See the full article here

Your thoughts on egg freezing

As part of our research over the last year we have been gathering people's views and thoughts on the topic of egg freezing.

Polling company ICM Unlimited kindly ran a short survey for us at the end of 2015 capturing responses from over 2000 people across the country. We will be publishing these results soon, but would love to hear your responses to the same questions too...

Find our very short online questionnaire here

If you have 3 minutes to spare please fill it in - all responses are anonymous. If you just can't wait to know what we learned from our poll, get in touch with us at info@the-liminal-space.com

Sharing what we've learned...

Sharing what we've learned...

Image: ART in ART by Gina Glover for Guy's and St Thomas' Charity

Image: ART in ART by Gina Glover for Guy's and St Thomas' Charity

In developing Timeless we learned a lot about egg freezing – a medical procedure where a number of your eggs are extracted from your ovaries and frozen for use in the future.

Whilst egg freezing has been offered to women facing fertility-threatening medical treatments such as chemotherapy for some years, freezing for elective reasons has only been offered in clinics in the past few years - since the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) announced in January 2013 that the practice was no longer “experimental”. Despite the ASRM also warning against using egg freezing “for the sole purpose of circumnavigating reproductive ageing in healthy women” due to a lack of sufficient data, the procedure has been gaining popularity among women wanting to preserve their fertility.

There is very little data on the success rates of egg freezing, and what’s available is complicated to decipher, however should you be interested here are some of the best reports and articles we came across in our research:

Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline 
Egg freezing and egg banking: empowerment and alienation in assisted reproduction
Six years' experience in ovum donation using vitrified oocytes

 

We also discovered a lot of research from social scientists on motherhood, fertility, assisted reproduction, and the decision-making that we as women are faced with. Here are some of the most interesting ones:

The effects of motherhood timing on career path 
Childless women’s knowledge of fertility and assisted human reproduction: identifying the gaps 
Factors Influencing Women’s Decisions About Timing of Motherhood

 

During this project we worked with an Advisory Board of experts from the medical and social sciences. We learned a lot from our advisors, and from their writing on this subject:

Papers by Emily Jackson, professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, can be found here
Articles by Dr Yacoub Khalaf, Director of the Assisted Conception Unit, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, can be found here and here 
Weekly newsletters from Bionews, edited by Sarah Norcross, Director of The Progress Educational Trust can be found here